When 26-year-old Robert Saylor refused to leave his theater seat after watching a movie in Frederick, Md., on Jan. 12, sheriff’s deputies were summoned. Saylor argued with the three officers, who removed him from the theater forcibly.
Saylor was handcuffed and forced face-down onto the ground. There, he suffocated in a death ruled by a medical examiner to have been homicide.
Beyond any reasonable doubt, the deputies, who have been suspended, did not want to harm Saylor. But they may not have been aware he had Down Syndrome, which probably contributed to the difficulty of the situation.
Could the tragedy have been avoided? Perhaps an investigation will disclose that.
But Saylor’s death is a reminder that law enforcement officers should have special training in how to deal with people suffering from mental and physical disabilities.
Local law enforcement agencies should look into ensuring their deputies and officers are prepared to handle people safely in such situations.