A report ruled that Down syndrome and obesity made Saylor more susceptible to breathing problems. Once his death was deemed a homicide, parents of children with Down syndrome started calling the sheriff's office, expressing concern. Advocacy groups spoke out. After the deputies were not charged with a crime, the National Down Syndrome Society met with the U.S. Justice Department of Justice. The press release issued spoke of the necessity for first-responder training guidelines for individuals with Down syndrome. It did not mention the need for an independent investigation into why an innocent man died.
There is a Change.org petition you can sign demanding justice for Robert Saylor. You can speak your mind on the National Down Syndrome Society Facebook page. Meriah of With A Little Moxie shares form letters you can send to the U.S. Department of Justice and Attorney General of Maryland demanding an investigation.
Perhaps the next time you have dealings with your local police precinct you can ask what training exists for individuals with special needs, and share the story of Robert Saylor. I doubt that law enforcement officials around the country typically get much training, if at all, for dealing with any individuals with special needs.
If you're the parent of a kid with special needs, or an individual with them, you're aware of the terrifying possibilities: A person with autism might unintentionally seem suspicious or oppositional when, in fact, he is just afraid or unable to communicate. A person with cerebral palsy might not be able to respond to authorities in a clear way; handcuffing him could cause serious pain and even injury. Max's arms are typically so stiff he can't even turn them so they face upward, let alone put them behind his back. A person with Down syndrome—one of significant size, as Robert Saylor was—might become anxious and act out in response.
No matter what diagnosis your child has, this should raise alarm bells. Because an innocent man with special needs died, because justice is turning its back on the case and because the very people whose job it is to keep Americans safe seemingly don't know how to protect the most vulnerable among us.
Sign the petition. Speak out. Help ensure that Robert Ethan Saylor's homicide is investigated—and that he did not die in vain.
Image: Flickr/Peter Castleton; Robert Ethan Saylor, screen grab, ABC News