Down Syndrome Death Ruled Homicide By Asphyxiation

    February 19, 2013
    Amanda Crum
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When 26-year old Robert Saylor went to the movies last month to see “Zero Dark Thirty”, he liked it so much he wanted to stay in the theater for another showing. Saylor, who was living with Down syndrome, garnered the attention of theater managers, who called police when he wouldn’t leave without buying another ticket. The responding officers forcibly removed him from the theater and, in the process, Saylor was forced to the ground and handcuffed. Officers say he suffered a “medical emergency” which required them to remove the cuffs and seek help. He was pronounced dead shortly after.

It is believed that Saylor succumbed to “positional asphyxia”, which can be caused during an arrest if a suspect is forced to the ground and, in a panicked state, struggle and can’t catch their breath. However, sheriff’s office spokesperson Cpl. Jennifer Bailey said in a statement that it’s important for them to gather all the details about the cause of death before moving on with the case. For now, the officers involved are still actively working, but they may be put on administrative leave.

“He just loved unconditionally everybody,” Patti Saylor, Robert’s mother, said. “He has never had anyone put their hands on him in his life. He would not have been doing anything threatening to anybody.”

Saylor said her son had no pre-existing medical conditions that would have contributed to his death.

  • Wini

    Perhaps it is time for the police to change its SWAT-like approach to every situation and start using a little common sense. They were in a movie theater, the fellow is struggling while on the ground, think a little bit. No weapons were found PDQ, so why the bullying tactics? FYI, I was raised with a brain damaged brother and have a low tolerance level for those that abuse/mistreat the handicapped (use your own politically correct term). Cops are supposed to be trained professionals when working with people.

  • Eric

    This is quite an unspeakable situation. Details aside, there is little to no excuse for force of any sort to have been used in this situation. It appears that the officers mishandled the situation and/or did not know what they were doing, or (I shudder to think) were intentionally mishandling this man. Police enforcement seems less likely to actually serve anyone. Add to that, Robert living with Downs Syndrome and it is that much more heartwrenching. I feel like
    the base of those who do not feel safe around law enforcement officers is growing-fueled by situations such as this. I feel like there are solutions that should be implemented to keep things such as this from happening-whether it is deemed an acccident or not.

  • Charles Moakler, Louisville, Kentucky

    I am of the opinion that constitutionally the police have to take total control of your safety when they take you into custody. If they can’t do it safely because they arn’t trained or don’t care about your medical and physical safety then they need to just let you go or let you be until they get someone there that is trained. The handcuffs and tazer are tools and have uses and restrictions. Big people need to be handcuffed in front. Anytime handcuffs are used in the rear the officer needs to stay with the subject throughout the detention. I see no need to over-react to this event but I do see the need to study it and act. This man was not supposed to die in custody. If proceedure was followed then the proceedure is wrong. They should have called EMS as soon as they realized that this fellow was different. If I were to have handcuffed him I guarintee I would be facing charges right now.

  • http://mine dennis

    he should know not to stay in the theater agan nothing is free thees days its to bad but free come on i cant do that he cant ether too bad he paid a bad price but come on he should know better theares no excuse

    • Tiquerra

      Key word,he had down syndrome,a physical and mental disorder. I guess u must b so perfect that u or any1 u know doesnt have any1 n their fam wit a mental disorder…either way we all should know those kind of ppl have laws protecting them. Do u think u should b arrested if u did what he did?

  • Tiquerra

    1st of all who gets arrested for watching a movie 2ce? I know plenty of ppl who sneak 4rm movie 2 movie(not me,dont go 2 movies) but also down syndrome ppl have a distinct look,so y would they have tried to restrain the poor guy. Im heart struck over this story. My heart goes out to his fam. God Bless!