Then, something happens that reminds me "she is different". The fact remains that my daughter has a disability. No, it does not define her, but she does have Down syndrome. With that comes differences in her anatomy. With that comes an intellectual disability. Ellie does not understand things that most 3 year-olds understand. She will most likely as an adult have difficulty with abstract thought. She may not understand rules, including societal rules. She may need help to navigate the world.
I read a news story in the Washington Post that startled me. It made me take a step back and rethink everything that I have been writing about. Maybe it is not the story, but the comments to the news story. The comments made by people who think they know everything when in fact, it shows just how much they do not understand about intellectual disabilities or Down syndrome. Comments that are crude and assume to know how the parents raised their young adult child or how this man behaved during the incident. Over eight hundred comments and so many that are negative towards the victim, the young man who died. These people are clearly ignorant and these are the types of people that my daughter will encounter throughout her life.
|Robert Ethan Saylor, 26 yo|
A 26 year-old man with Down syndrome died in the hands of police custody. Robert Ethan Saylor was watching a movie at a theater when he refused to leave because he wanted to watch Zero-Dark-Thirty again. He had an aide. An eighteen year-old. She had left him alone for a brief period of time to go get the car. A theater called for help --this help constituted 3 off-duty police officers working as security at a nearby shopping complex. I don't know if they identified themselves as cops to Ethan. I do not even know if Ethan even understood that they were indeed the police. We may never know because he is gone from this world. The cops stated that Ethan cursed at and hit and kicked at them. They applied 3 sets of handcuffs to Ethan to restrain him. While Robert Ethan Saylor was down on his stomach, he started to asphyxiate. As in be smoothered to death. The cops did flip him over and tried to administer CPR. Ethan died. Ethan had Down syndrome.
I am not arguing that Robert Ethan Saylor should have been allowed to stay at the theater to watch the movie again. I am not stating that the theater should not have asked for help. I am however, stating that Ethan Saylor should not have died. How did this happen? Three sets of handcuffs? Three?!? Three officers for one guy. Did they let him up as soon as they saw him struggled to breathe? How did this happen? How did he ended up without oxygen for so long that he died? Just how long was his face mashed into the ground? The news report says 1-2 minutes.
Also shocking is that Ethan's death was ruled as "Death By Down Syndrome". Seriously? He died from Down syndrome? I highly doubt it. The coroner stated that his obesity contributed to this. I would like to see an official list of all obese people who died during their arrests.
Should Ethan have been treated differently? Maybe. Should he have been allowed to stay in the theater? No. Like I said, this is not about allowing the man to watch the movie again for free. This is not about the theater calling for help.
This is not about what many comments have stated (commenters who do not even know this family or how he was raised!)
So Saylor 'had no history of violence?" Maybe that's true. It probably is. I suspect he had no history of violence because he was used to having his whims catered to. I think he did pretty much whatever he wanted to do and got away with it because he was "special." His parents didn't keep him in line; he was allowed to call 911 and the police so often that his mother brought cookies to the Sheriff's department in gratitude for indulging him and not arresting him. I think when he was told to leave that theater it may have been the first time in his life he was not allowed to do something he wanted to do. And it ENRAGED him. I think that's where the violence came from. For the first time in his life he was thwarted and he would not accept it. And that's why he fought and cursed and had to be subdued. I guess his family and friends found his unrestrained behaviors cute and charming. But in the end it proved fatal.--commenter on Washington Post Story
This is about how the police handled the situation. The officers should have recognized that he had Down syndrome and as such realized that perhaps they needed to take a different approach. Maybe they could have waited for his aide? Maybe they could have called his family. I guarantee you his mama bear could have gotten him out of that theater. This is about a man with an intellectual disability dying at the hands of off-duty officers. It is about his death.
I imagine that Robert Ethan Saylor was scared. I imagine he didn't understand that those out-of-uniformed men were officers. I imagine that he believed he was defending himself. I imagine that he was petrified as he struggled to breath. I also imagine that his death will torment those police officers for life.
I don't want my daughter to be treated different and yet, I do. I would want her to learn the consequences of her actions, but not at the expense of her life. In an ideal world, I would like people to be educated that my daughter and others with Ds have an intellectual disability. That it is okay to ask for help if there is a situation requiring police intervention or any other type of behavioral intervention. That I want the police to receive more training on working with those who are disabled. Most of all, I want her treated with RESPECT. Respect--Just. Like. Everyone. Else.
This new story has shaken me. It makes me me scared to ever let Ellie, as an adult venture off alone. I want her to do things on her own and yet, I want to be there, right by her side. Protecting her. My heart goes out to the Saylor family.
Petition for Robert Ethan Saylor at Change.org
More on Call-To-Action: Down Syndrome Uprising