Many of us in the Down syndrome community are aware of the tragic death of Ethan Saylor, a 26 year old young man with Down syndrome. When I first read about Ethan my heart broke. It was every mom's nightmare about the future for her child with special needs...because some day we might not be available to our children as they become adults; some day there may be situations that arise that are beyond our control.
Right now Lily is with me almost 100% of the time. Right now I know what is happening in her life, who she comes into contact with, how safe she is. Right now she can call for Mommy and I am at her side in a moment's time.
If you have not had time to become familiar with what happened to Ethan Taylor, this post is for you.
All week I've wanted to address this situation, but I haven't had the words to do it. Combined with that, I am aware that there are always two sides to a story. I have family members who were or are in law enforcement, and I have the utmost respect for those who put their lives on the line every day to do their jobs and provide safe communities for our nation. I'm also aware that there can be "gray" areas when it comes to cases like these. I don't know all the facts- I don't know why this aide left Ethan alone in a theater, I don't know what Ethan said or did to cause the officers to respond the way they did.. all I know is what I'm reading online.
But the bottom line is that no independent investigation has been called, and there is a grieving mama and community who knew Ethan, who want answers. If there was no wrong done on the part of the officers involved, an independent investigation should bring that to light. If there were grave mistakes made, intentional or otherwise, that can be addressed, that will perhaps change the future for individuals with special needs, then that is what this post is aiming for.
Because some day Lily is going to face situations that are out of my control...and if she ever faces a situation where her rights are in question, I would hope there would be a community that would rise up around her and be her voice.
Today I've asked my blogging friend TUC for permission to reprint her post here, It's Not That Complicated ...she says the things I wanted to say, and says them so much better than I could have.
Please, please take the time to respond to her call to action regarding Ethan.
(Is your Facebook feed saturated with Ethan Saylor posts? Are you sick of it and fairly sure enough other people are acting on this? Well, you can skip this post if ya want to, but please don’t think someone else is standing up in your place.)
And no matter the slant, no matter the details in one post versus another, an unarmed young man died in police custody in a Regal movie theater in Frederick, MD on January 12. His alleged crime was that he refused to leave the theater after a showing of Zero Dark Thirty was over. Three police officers attempted to remove him and one thing led to another (that is my compilation of the various details I have read) and Ethan wound up handcuffed face down on the floor. Shortly after that, he ended up dead.
His autopsy report states there were several contributing factors leading to his death, and ultimately called it a homicide. The case was internally investigated and then a grand jury in Frederick decided that there was no cause to charge the officers involved with any malfeasance or misconduct of any sort.
How is it possible that a 26 year old man can go to a movie and wind up dead, and nothing is responsible for this except the fact that the man himself was defective?
The National Down Syndrome Congress explains much more clearly than I can that this is a human rights issue. When you read their statement, and find out that the man’s mother was on her way to the theater to diffuse the situation, it is enough to break your heart.
Because really... impatience, unnecessary force, and a lack of judgement is what killed Ethan Saylor.
It is true that Ethan was in the wrong when he refused to leave the theater (he wanted to watch the show again). It is true that Ethan Saylor likely got very upset when attempts were made to physically remove him (witnesses say he cried out for his mommy). It is true that sometimes people with Down syndrome are down right stubborn and refuse to move when you tell them to.
It is also true that if Ethan had been allowed to sit there in the theater and wait for his mom, he would still be alive today... and Regal would be out all of 12 bucks for the seat.
Would that have been special treatment? In my mind every unarmed, out-manned citizen should be treated with patience and the least amount of force possible until all feasible options are exhausted.
If you agree with that, then please consider signing the petition (started two months ago by Ethan’s mom) to request an independent inquiry into the matter.
Raise your hand if you love a police officer (my hand is up). Raise your hand if you think cops put their lives on the line everyday protecting us (my hand is up). Raise your hand if you think all police officers are perfect, that they never misjudge a situation, never make a bad call, and never hurt someone unnecessarily in the course of carrying out their work...
If you put your hand back down, please call the Dept. of Justice (they are involved and are "gauging public reaction before deciding their next step") at 202-307-5138 and let them know that for Ethan’s sake, for all of our sakes, it is important to begin an independent investigation of what actually happened to Ethan.