Justice for Ethan
Who was Ethan Saylor?
Ethan Saylor was a 26 year old man in New Market, Maryland. By all accounts, he was the
kind of guy any of us would like to know. He attended church regularly - literally, twice on
Sundays - and loved the police and military. He was a friend to whoever he met.
He happened to have Down Syndrome.
How was Ethan Killed?
On January 12, 2013, Ethan and his chaperone attended a showing of "Zero Dark Thirty" at the Regal Theaters in Frederick, Maryland. After the movie, Ethan's chaperone (believed to be a health care worker), told him to wait in the theater while she went to pull the car around. While waiting, a movie theater employee decided that Ethan had no place in that theater, and called mall security to remove him from the theater. Scott Jewell, Rich Rochford, and James Harris (off-duty sheriff deputies from Frederick County, MD, who happened to be moonlighting as mall security) answered the call.What happened next is not entirely clear. The only people that could tell us are Ethan (who died), the Scott Jewell, Rich Rochford, and James Harris (who are hiding behind their 'badges' and staying silent) the Frederick County Sheriff (who is not releasing the results of their self-investigation), and the dozen-plus witnesses who may have been intimidated by the Frederick County Sheriff to remain silent.
[What appears below is an amalgamation of the published news reports. If you participated in, or witnessed, the killing of Ethan Saylor, please contact Justice For Ethan. If you provide us an affidavit, sworn under oath, we will be happy to update the site.]
Jewell, Rochford and Harris told Ethan to leave the theater. Ethan did not leave - the chaperone (believed to be a health care aide) he trusted told him to stay put. Jewell, Rochford and Harris reportedly dragged Ethan out of the theater, put him in a restraint called the "hog-tie", and placed him face down on the ground . Trained law enforcement professionals know that this restraint can be a lethal hold; it frequently results in death especially when the victim is face down when "hog-tied". Jewell, Rochford and Harris ignored the chaperone (believed to be a health care aide) that said she had the situation under control. They ignored - and possibly intimidated - the bystanders who tried to assist Ethan as he slowly choked to death.
They ignored the fact that Ethan's mom was 5 minutes away and rushing to get to the theater. Worst of all, these 3 grown men ignored Ethan's last words, which he cried out in sheer terror: "I want my Mommy". Ethan's death was ruled a homicide by the Coroner's Office: death by positional asphyxiation (suffocation).
How was Ethan's murder swept under the rug?
Since Ethan's death, the incident has been swept under the rug. The Frederick County Sheriffs self-investigated themselves, and unsurprisingly, cleared themselves of wrongdoing. The Maryland District Attorney empaneled a grand jury, and half-heartedly attempted to indict the officers, but refused to present live testimony from any of the witnesses that saw the murder. (There's a saying in the law, to the effect that a Prosecutor can "Indict a paper bag".) That these 3 men were not indicted speaks to the vigor, or lack thereof, with which this case appears to have been prosecuted).
The Department of Justice has sat on its hands saying they will consider acting if only "community tension" rises. Some of the Down Syndrome National Advocacy Groups have been very slow to respond to the community's pleas for help to get Justice for Ethan. Only 2 national organizations - the International Down Syndrome Coalition (IDSC) and Down Syndrome Achieves (DSA) stepped forward to support efforts for #JusticeforEthan. Within minutes, the IDSC responded to one blogger's request for support in securing DS Specific Police and First Responder Training in February 2013.
The National Down Syndrome Congress has posted the White House Petition for Justice for Ethan on the front page of its website .The National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS), has done little more than issue a press release and mail 2 letters - weeks and months after Ethan's death. Read for yourself the 2 letters that NDSS Executive Director Jonathan Colman wrote - nearly 3 months after Ethan's death:
After clicking those links, the answer is "No" - we didn't get the links wrong. The NDSS posts only 1 letter, but says it wrote 2. Makes you wonder if the second letter was even sent? Notice how the letter advocates more for the NDSS than they do for Ethan or others with Down Syndrome? Do these letters read like they were written by the "National Advocate for the inclusion of people with Down Syndrome"? If you were the Superintendent of the Maryland State Police, would that letter motivate you to act? #JusticeForEthan doesn't think so; we think an organization that has assets in excess of $4 Million Dollars can do more than just mail off a form letter with as much substance as one finds in a vacation postcard. In a country driven by revenue and financial balance sheets, at least some of the NDSS reluctance to act is understandable. In a February 7, 2010, email, Sarah Schleider (then VP of Marketing and Communication for the National Down Syndrome Society) touts the organization's tight financial ties to Regal Theater - the very theater franchise where Ethan died, stating: "For the past 2 years, the RegalEntertainment Group has donated over $500,000 in air time and has become a valuable partner for NDSS and our affiliate Buddy Walk organizers." This donation of air time by Regal to NDSS is not clearly indicated on NDSS public disclosure forms in2009, 2010, or 2011 (Again - NDSS - we hope we are wrong; please clear this up if you think we are). When forced to choose between taking the side of Ethan Saylor, a single man who happens to have had Down Syndrome, and the side of a corporate sponsor that contributes air-time close approaching nearly one-sixth of the NDSS's 2010 Revenue, the reluctance of the NDSS to take a position is more clear. From the inaction of those that stay on the sidelines and do not take the side of the Person with Down Syndrome, the Campaign for #JusticeForEthan was born.
Here is our motto:
We are Legion.
We will not Forget.