The death of a man with Down syndrome who was reportedly killed after lying face-down in police custody has been ruled a homicide.
WJLA reports that Robert Saylor, 26, of New Market, Md., was asphyxiated on Jan. 12, according to a medical examiner’s ruling late last week.
A “law enforcement source familiar with the case” told the station that Saylor “went into distress when he was put face down on the ground.”
Police were reportedly called to a Frederick movie theater by employees who couldn’t get Saylor to leave. He had come to the theater with a health aide, paid admission for “Zero Dark Thirty,” but allegedly remained after it was over.
Frederick County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Jennifer Bailey said the case is still under investigation and that the three officers involved in Saylor’s death — Lt. Scott Jewell, Sgt. Rich Rochford and Deputy First Class James Harris — “continue to work their normal assignments.”
Frederick County State’s Attorney Charlie Smith said his office is reviewing the incident and has not decided whether to bring charges.
Police officers nationwide often lack appropriate training for dealing with suspects who have special needs, according to a study by Crisis Intervention Team International.
Other research by disability advocacy groups has found that “law enforcement officers often receive little or no training in the area of intellectual and developmental disabilities and have difficulty recognizing a person who has this disability.”