Outrageous and Horrifying: Death of Robert Saylor

Robert Saylors Death Homicide Good Evening

Update below**

The story I have for you tonight is so upsetting, I cannot even express how bad I feel for this boy’s family…but my anger is rooted at the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office, and whoever is in charge of their training. I am also pissed at the department’s internal affairs, because it took them so long to put the killer cops on leave…
Take a deep relaxing breath, you are going to need it.

Three deputies have been placed on leave in the wake of a medical examiner’s report that labeled the death of a Maryland man with Down syndrome a homicide.

“After thorough consideration of all of the facts, I made the decision to place the deputies on administrative leave,” Frederick County Sheriff Charles Jenkins said in a statement obtained by WJLA. “When completed, the death investigation will be forwarded to the Office of the State’s Attorney for Frederick County for review to determine if this case will be presented to a Grand Jury.”

You ready for this….Robert was killed on January 12th of this year. It has taken over a month for the Frederick County Sheriff’s office to suspend these murdering cops. The cops were not even taking off active duty until today.

WJLA reported on Friday that Robert Saylor, 26, of New Market, Md., was asphyxiated on Jan. 12, according to a medical examiner’s ruling late last week, WJLA previously reported.

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.”

The Washington Post reports how Saylor, who was with a health aide, came into contact with Lt. Scott Jewell, Sgt. Rich Rochford and Deputy First Class James Harris:

As officials tell it, Saylor had been watching “Zero Dark Thirty” at a Frederick movie theater last month and, as soon as it ended, wanted to watch it again. When he refused to leave, a theater employee called three off-duty Frederick County sheriff’s deputies who were working a security job at the Westview Promenade shopping center and told them that Saylor either needed to buy another ticket or be removed.

Joseph Espo, an attorney representing Saylor’s family, intimated to CBS News that he’s concerned the sheriff’s office might face a conflict of interest when investigating the actions of its own deputies.

You bet your ass there is a conflict here. It is disgusting.

“We just think it would have been preferable to have an outside agency take a look,” Espo said. “I think what [the family members] most want to see out of the investigation is a clear account of what happened and why it happened.”

During the investigation, the deputies who were with Saylor are still active. They are Lt. Scott Jewell, Sgt. Rich Rochford and Deputy First Class James Harris. They had been working secondary employment with Hill Management at the Westview Promenade.
My brother has downs syndrome, as many of you know…I write and talk about him a lot here on the blog.  He gets into angry fits on a regular basis…but even if we are out in public, even the folks around Banjoville understand his outburst. You can see the compassion in their faces.
But here, you have a young man who only wanted to see a movie one more time.  I don’t know where Robert’s aide was when all this shit happened….but I see so many fucked up issues with this entire disturbing story.
First, the manager of the movie theater. Why the hell would they force the issue and just let Robert watch the film one more time? I can just bet when Robert began to get irritated, the theater employees exasperated the situation. The cops are another problem, this is unbelievable…they use force and handcuff him, keeping him face down. They murdered this young man, and I hope justice will finally come to Robert’s family.
Yes, I am taking this news story personally! Robert could have been my brother Denny, and my heart breaks…it is full of pain for the loss Robert Saylor’s family is experiencing.
Since Robert Saylor’s death has been ruled a homicide, the Frederick County Sheriff’s Department’s Facebook page has been lit up with hundreds of comments, saying the officers should be jailed and they are a disgrace and should be fired.

Sheriff Charles Jenkins has written a letter to the community, calling the incident “tragic” and urging people to reserve judgment. The sheriff was childhood friends with the victim’s father, making the case even more difficult.

“I really sympathize with his family. I wish we could have that moment in time back.”


Frederick County’s top prosecutor is promising a thorough investigation into the death.

State’s Attorney Charlie Smith said Wednesday he has received the investigative file from the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office on the death of Saylor.

Saylor died of asphyxiation Jan. 12 after three sheriff’s deputies tried to forcibly remove him from a Frederick movie theater at the manager’s request. The state medical examiner’s office has ruled the death a homicide.

“There did come a point when they had to remove him from his seat,” says Jenkins. “There was no excess force. They did have to handcuff Mr. Saylor and unfortunately as they were walking out he suffered a medical emergency.”

All this for the price of a movie ticket. Outrageous!
You can see  a video report here.
This is an open thread…
** Update**

Baltimore attorney Joseph Espo, who is representing the family, said Saylor’s caregiver might have been able to defuse the situation, but the caregiver was outside getting her car to take Saylor home when the conflict started.

“They could have just waited a couple of minutes for Ethan’s caregiver to return to the scene and let her deal with it,” Espo said. “He was sitting in his seat, while admittedly not having paid for another ticket, minding his own business. It was not an urgent situation that required immediate attention.”

When the caregiver returned to the theater, she tried to intervene and de-escalate the situation but was ignored, Espo said.

“The deputies continued doing their thing,” he said. “They didn’t disengage.”

Espo said he and the family met with Jenkins on Friday and expressed their disappointment that the three deputies were still on duty.

“The decision to keep the deputies on regular duty was deeply troubling to the family,” Espo said. “Ethan died in their custody, and these officers just went right back to work.”


Paul Foss, head elder at Damascus Road Community Church, which Saylor and his mother, Patti, had attended for several years, said Saylor was a valued member of the congregation who loved hugs from his church friends. After learning of Saylor’s death, church members filled his seat with bouquets of flowers, Foss said.

“He loved to be there for both services, the 9 and the 11, and he had his seat right up front,” Foss said. “We miss Ethan.”

Foss said Saylor’s arms were often wrapped around the neck of Senior Pastor Richard Fredericks as Fredericks greeted congregants. He would take advantage of the break between services to go see — and hug — his many friends, as well as enjoy the refreshments served in the lobby, Foss said.

“Ethan loved to eat, and he’d go and get a plate, and if you weren’t watching he’d go and get a second plate,” he said.

Foss views Saylor’s death as a tragedy that could have been avoided.

“Someone with a cooler head should have said, ‘Let’s take a deep breath, and let’s come back to this in 10 minutes,'” he said. “If something could come out of this that can help this not happen in the future, I’m all for that.”


Saylor, a graduate of The Benedictine School in Ridgely, had worked briefly for Goodwill Industries.

Weikert said he was saddened by the tragic irony surrounding Saylor’s death. An enthusiastic supporter of law enforcement, Saylor collected information on different agencies and would call for deputies just so they could come to his house and talk to him.

“The part of society he trusted the most ended up being his worst nightmare,” Weikert said.



24 Comments on “Outrageous and Horrifying: Death of Robert Saylor”

  1. I can’t say anything more about this story…have a good night.

    • dakinikat says:

      People can be unimaginably cruel. Thanks for writing about this J.J.. It’s important that people who have family members and can relate to the situation help every one understand what it’s like and the challenges that you can face. We need to be a lot more tolerant and patient society. Also, we need to have a lot more love in us.

      • I look at his pictures and see my brother’s face. It is so upsetting to me and my mother, we both are sick about it.

      • Fannie says:

        JJ, it seems like the disabled, the poor, women, and working people in this country can find NO RELIEF. You know we stand by you and your brother, and your family. We know how others are downright mean, but we didn’t realize that would include cop killers.

        Never give up, keep pushing, we are with you.

    • bostonboomer says:

      OMG, this is horrible! I can understand why you have such strong feelings about this. What is wrong with police these days? It seems that ever since 9/11, they have been getting worse and worse. I totally agree that it was wrong of the theater manager to call police. What harm would it have done to let Robert watch the movie again? Now his family has to live with this terrible pain.

      Thank you for writing this post, JJ.

      • bostonboomer says:

        I don’t know anyone with Downs syndrome well, but there used to be a young man with Downs at my local grocery store. He worked there for years and moved up from bagging to working on the cash register. I really liked him and would deliberately go to his register because he was so nice and fun to talk to. I often think of him now that store has been taken over by Whole Foods. I hope he’s OK.

      • dakinikat says:

        My groceries today were bagged by a man with Down’s syndrome. I don’t understand any one that doesn’t use excess patience with people that obviously have issues. You can always tell the boddhisattvas from the demons by the way they treat the least among us. (I’m saying that metaphorically but you get my drift.)

      • Exactly, and the thing that gets me is that these cops were still active duty, they were not even put on administrative leave after Robert’s death. It wasn’t until the story came out yesterday, and the complaints started to come in, that they suspended the cops.

  2. jany says:

    All for what, 7 bucks??!! was what I was thinking all through your post. I have a handicapped daughter who also hits herself when agitated or upset. And she has episodes because of her medicine where she falls on her face while crawling. Parents like us live in fear that police will take the wrong idea and throw us in a police car at any moment. I knew a mother of a teen boy with Down’s who carried a note from his doctor around to prove that she was not the one who hit him if they saw bruises on him because he self-abused. This is outrageous!!!!! I would love it if they would have educational classes for police, and I would love to do one of the lectures to them. They need to understand these kids and young people. All that cop had to say was ‘sure you can watch the movie again. let’s go get you some more pop corn and a ticket.” or something like that.!!!!! sorry for the rant.

    • If the cops are being charged with homicide, it would not surprise me if Robert went into distress and they saw he was having difficulties and they did nothing.

      • RalphB says:

        They probably just made it worse if they did anything. Those cops should have been suspended the night it happened and been arrested when the medical examiner decided it was homicide. Anything less is rank favoritism and the sheriff ought to be canned by the voters asap.

    • I work with developmentally disabled people and Down’s Syndrome folks are very fragile when it comes to their respiratory issues. Some even sleep upright and begin to have issues if you place them flat for a medical examination. In years past individuals with Down’s Syndrome didn’t live past their early forties, but with good medical care they are now living into their sixties.

      I continue to say that we need Community Policing and police that are therapists on the force to deal with special needs individuals and children and for on hand education for others on the force. Our police department has one, with many interns who primarily deals with special needs people, with emphasis on youth.

      Minkoff, thanks for bringing the story to people’s attention. The story is tragic, in that it didn’t need to happen, shouldn’t have happened. 😦

  3. dakinikat says:

    Just 22% of Americans consider themselves Republicans, reports @USATODAY from poll w/@pewresearch http://bit.ly/12PL9vt

    • RalphB says:

      That’s still 20% too many. Slow learners.

    • RalphB says:

      That fits well with this polling.

      Bloomberg: Obama Rated at 3-Year High in Poll, Republicans at Bottom

      President Barack Obama enters the latest budget showdown with Congress with his highest job- approval rating in three years and public support for his economic message, while his Republican opponents’ popularity stands at a record low.

      Fifty-five percent of Americans approve of Obama’s performance in office, his strongest level of support since September 2009, according to a Bloomberg National poll conducted Feb. 15-18. Only 35 percent of the country has a favorable view of the Republican Party, the lowest rating in a survey that began in September 2009. The party’s brand slipped six percentage points in the last six months, the poll shows.

      I think this lady spells out why this is true pretty well.

      “The Republicans are not offering any new solutions,” said poll respondent Cynthia Synos, 62, a political independent who lives in the St. Louis suburb of Greendale, Missouri. “Their answer is always tax cuts and incentives for business. I’ve never heard them say anything innovative to spark the economy that would help the other 85, 90 percent of people that have to deal with the economy as it is.”

  4. Toadfish says:

    Perfect word choice: Horrifying. I don’t like generalizations, but one can’t help it at a moment like this – ACAB.

  5. Damn, Soledad was the only reason for watching CNN: Soledad O’Brien heading out of CNN as Erin Burnett moves to her morning slot – NYPOST.com

    I hope she goes somewhere that will use her talent. Love Soledad!

  6. RalphB says:

    The Guardian: America’s military can handle anything … except a budget cut

    The people running the Pentagon should be fired.

  7. R. Moorhouse says:

    Robert Saylor’s physical appearance should have a clue to the deputies that he was a “special needs person” and they should have handled the situation, accordingly. As a law enforcement retiree with 5 years as a city police officer and deputy sheriff and 25 years as a federal criminal investigator, I would like to think I would have handled the situation differently by (1) waiting for his caretaker – she probably told him to stay in his seat and he was following orders or (2) reach into my pocket and pull out the money so Robert Saylor could have watched the movie, again – maybe, buy him a cold drink and popcorn. Had the deputies stopped to think, they’d probably have gotten thank you letters from Robert’s mother, rather than, potentially, facing murder charges. Just read a few posts, what does politics have to do with this issue? You don’t know if the deputies were Republicans, democrats, Libertarians, liberals or conservatives.

    • bostonboomer says:

      Thanks for stopping by. Your comments make a lot of sense–especially the idea of just buying him a ticket.

      We don’t just write about politics here, but politics isn’t just about party preference. Crime can be very political–rape, for example. And the treatment of disabled people is definitely a political issue. We also write about psychology, ancient history, archaeology, just about anything that appeals to one of us and that we want to share.

  8. Rand C. says:

    While the media has been reporting that Robert was trying to watch the movie a second time without paying, they are undoubtedly just parroting the story told by the sheriff’s department to make it seem that there was some justification for their despicable act of aggression. With the limited amount of information available it has been revealed that the caregiver who had accompanied him to the movie theater had gone to get the car which apparently had been parked a considerable distance away. She had most likely told Robert to wait for her return. Flat-footedness is a common characteristic of Down Syndrome and walking can sometimes be uncomfortable, if not painful, especially if the individual is overweight. What makes this whole situation especially disgusting is that the caregiver did in fact return and attempted to defuse the situation but was ignored by the deputies, who continued in their noble activity of abusing a helpless, disabled young man to his death. If any good could come from this tragic, entirely avoidable situation it would be that Americans everywhere begin to raise a mighty hue and cry in opposition to out of control law enforcement agencies across the country that have lost sight of their mission as servants of the people. Because of Robert’s unique vulnerability his case has garnered considerable attention, as it should, but let us not forget that the number of innocents, or near innocents, abused at the hands of police is now too excessive to count. It has become a daily occurrence in the Land of the Free. Like all people with Downs, Robert was a gentle and loving soul who would never hurt anyone. We can only hope that his face and memory will inspire a movement to reign in the excesses of our increasingly militarized law enforcement agencies and return them to their rightful mission of preserving the peace and freedom of Americans. I also hope that there are ethical and morally upright police who are as disturbed by this tragedy as the majority of people seem to be who learn of it.