On Jan. 26, Ethan Saylor, a 26-year-old Frederick, Md., man with Down syndrome went to the movies to see the political thriller "Zero Dark Thirty." Shortly after the 2 1/2-hour movie was over, he was dead as a victim of homicide, according to the medical examiner’s report. The men responsible were three county sheriff’s deputies. But no one was indicted and no one is sure how Ethan died or why.
Now Ethan’s family is demanding answers and they have gathered 207,000 signatures — and counting — on a petition directed at Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley.
"It's not clear what happened exactly and that's where our questions are coming from," said Saylor’s 23-year-old sister, Emma (pictured, left, with Ethan), to ABC News. "All we know is he ended up dead. No one expects their brother to go to a movie and not come home."
The basic facts are that Ethan enjoyed the movie so much that he went back into the theater to see it again, neglecting to buy a second $12 ticket. The three deputies, working off-duty as security guards, told him to leave. When Ethan objected, deputies attempted to physically remove him from the theater.
What happened next remains murky. Witness reports conflict, some saying the deputies tackled Ethan, pinning him to the ground with knees to his back. Other accounts say the whole group slipped on a ramp and fell to the floor with the deputies on top. Whatever happened, the 5-foot-6, 294-pound Ethan stopped breathing and died.
Emma notes that Ethan’s overweight condition could have contributed to his death.
She said Ethan had a helper who left the theater but came back during the altercation. The helper told the deputies that Ethan reacted badly to being touched, but they ignored her, according to Emma.
An O’Malley representative said the governor is “aware of and troubled by the death of Ethan Saylor.”
The National Down Syndrome Society is also pursuing the case and asking the U.S. Justice Department to find out if Ethan’s rights under the Americans With Disabilities Act were violated. The Justice Department has said it is “reviewing” the incident.
A grand jury in March decided against indicting the deputies.
SOURCES: ABC News, CBS Baltimore, WUSA 9, Change.org