I have heard from a couple friends I should ‘write funny’ like I used to. I would love to do that for them and me. I can’t right now. Ethan Saylor’s death and what has transpired since makes ‘funny’ have to wait today. I am a mother of a child who has Down syndrome.
I have written twice before about Ethan’s death. In the first I was appalled that prior to the Grand Jury findings several theories were being offered for the death of Mr. Saylor – none of which included he might have been the victim of a violent encounter with three individuals who used excessive and deadly force.
In my second post I wrote about my frustration that a national organization that advocates on behalf of people with Down syndrome had made a preliminary assessment that he may have been compromised by his Down syndrome. (After Trayvon Martin was shot did the N.A.A.C.P. suggest to African-American males to discontinue wearing hoodies while visiting neighborhoods they are not known in?)
Since the Grand Jury findings – numerous news stories and posts have been written. One stands out from the Huffington Post. I can’t tell if it’s straight out victim blaming by the writer David Disneau or poorly written. Disneau seems to be indicating Ethan Saylor was a person whose time had just come. He offers everything but the kitchen sink and a grassy knoll toward that conclusion.
The story suggests Ethan was a fat, angry man with a bad heart and Down syndrome. He caused the four individuals involved (himself and the security personnel) to fall in a heap by resisting. The use of three sets of handcuffs was “to accommodate his girth”.
The Saylor family’s “lawyer Joseph B. Espo has said that Saylor didn’t like being touched, particularly by strangers”. Disneau seems to juxtapose this assessment in a really clunky way with the fact “Saylor’s obituary and acquaintances have portrayed him as a warm, playful person”. Could Ethan have had a fully dimensional personality – meaning he did not like to be touched by strangers and he was a warm, playful person – and nothing he did contributed to his death?
Is there an alternative reason for his death that had nothing to do with Down syndrome, weight, anger issues or a heart condition? There were four people involved in this violent encounter and one is dead. How about some reflection that at least one other analysis of the situation exists?
Has it never been true that individuals who were also police personnel have caused the unnecessary death of a person in their custody? What if these three men simply went ape shit on a guy? Why are these individuals behavior not questioned? What if they were angry? What if they over-reacted? What if they were so out of control they killed Ethan Saylor?
Ethan is being examined because he is the Other in this situation – the one who was not a security officer; the one who had Down syndrome.
I have heard countless times from strangers, friends, family members, health professionals, teachers, therapists and professionals of all kinds the same stereotypical commentary on our son. Except they don’t described the behavior’s as attributable to Thorin.
Instead they say:
“They sure are happy!”
“They are stubborn aren’t they?”
Any parent of a child with Down syndrome knows exactly what I am talking about. They will not have to reach into some murky past to figure out the last time they heard those statements. They hear it all the time.
What I want to offer to those of you that are not aware you may even feel this way – Ethan Saylor was not different from us. He was a human being.
I also believe he may very likely be – our Michael Stewart, our Rodney King, and our Amadou Bailo Diallo. The reason I do not know for sure is that the only investigation into Ethan’s death was conducted by the same department that employed the three Frederick County sheriff’s deputies, who were moonlighting as mall security guards on that terrible day.