Patti Saylor, the mother of the man with down syndrome who was killed by movie theater security officers in January 2013, stood before Congress to demand that federal legislation be enacted to make sure law enforcement officers are trained on how to properly deal with people who have disabilities.
The story of Ethan Saylor has struck a chord with people all over the world, and the details surrounding his death are disturbing. Saylor was at a movie theater with his caretaker seeing the movie “Zero Dark Thirty,” and after it was over, he wanted to stay and watch it for a second time. Saylor didn’t have any more money, but he still tried to stay in the movie theater. Instead of trying to deal with him in an understanding and compassionate manner, theater security officers proceeded to drag him from his seat, put him on the ground to handcuff him, and unintentionally suffocate him while sitting on his back.
Patti Saylor has been deeply affected by her son’s death, and now, she is making it her mission to use tragedy to enact change.
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“I want to tell you that I am here as a grieving mother,” said Patti in her testimony to Congress. “It’s been 15 months. I’m not sure that it will ever stop. While anyone, disability or not, could have been injured or killed in Ethan’s situation that evening, our family also remains deeply concerned that Ethan’s rights, as an individual with a disability, were violated. The autopsy showed that Ethan’s larynx was crushed while being restrained by the officers. The manner in which Ethan was restrained that evening, with his hands behind his back and forced to lie face down on his stomach, has for years been considered excessive due to the chance of positional asphyxia.
“He was not threatening, he was not in crisis,” continued Patti Saylor. “He had a problem that needed solving: how do I stay and watch the movie when my aide is telling me it is time to go home? I would have solved that problem in literally 5 minutes.”
Since the tragic incident, the state of Maryland, with the leadership of Saylor, has been actively working to reevaluate their policies regarding the way law enforcement interacts with people with disabilities. Now, Saylor has taken her fight to the federal level in the hopes of enacting change on a bigger scale.
“Since Ethan’s death, we have been on our own advocacy journey to achieve justice for Ethan, while at the same time ensuring what happened to Ethan never happens to another member of the Down syndrome and disability community ever again,” said Saylor to Congress
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Saylor testified to the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Human Rights.