Down syndrome is the Hoodie in the Room: "Robert Ethan Saylor, Disabled Man Who Died In Custody, Had Heart Problem"

The recent HuffPo article on the Robert Saylor case really pissed me off.

Did you read it? Robert Ethan Saylor, Disabled Man Who Died In Custody, Had Heart Problem.

Let me get this straight: a young black man in BART station in Oakland (the very one in which my husband works, I might add) gets “accidentally” shot by a cop and we have riots, an uprising and a legion of people that are ready and willing to  effect some change and make sure that trigger happy cop is served up a slice of justice in addition to more cop training.

A young man with DOWN SYNDROME in Maryland is “accidentally” held down and suffocated to death over a stupid movie ticket and we are getting “oh, he had a heart problem” from HuffPo.

WELL HELLO:

I think I’d have a heart problem too if I was being SUFFOCATED TO DEATH

Robert Saylor’s death is getting dismissed because he had Down syndrome. If he was black, you bet your bottom dollar this would be riot-worthy.

His death is also getting dismissed because we as a society do not know enough about Down syndrome to call bullshit.

We as a society do not know enough about Down syndrome to say – wait a freaking minute. He may have had a heart problem but that’s beside the point. The point is he was held down by THREE officers in a position in which he COULD NOT BREATHE.

Blaming Down syndrome for this is like blaming Trayvon Martin for wearing a hoodie.

 

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Meriah
Meriah Nichols is a deaf artist, tech-junkie, Counselor (and sometime teacher), mom (one with Down syndrome), cat-lover, Trekkie, yurt-dwelling off-the-grid farmer's wife. She writes about travel, disability, and getting dishes done.

12 Comments

  • Allow me to play devil’s advocate. People without Down syndrome die or are injured and revived in custody fairly regularly and we never even hear about it.

    I absolutely believe that DS and related health conditions (heart problem, neck circumference/possible “floppy airway”/sleep apnea, weight/abdominal girth, speech difficulty to express problem he was having) made this man’s death more likely. I also think that arresting and restraining any person because they tried to scam an extra movie ticket is ridiculous. Finally, I don’t think that moonlighting cops should be wield, or be viewed as having, the same authority they do when they are on duty (or, as in this case, the protection of the tax-paid police force when wrong has been done).

  • Preach.

    Also – did you see this sentence? “Saylor didn’t like being touched, particularly by strangers”. WHO THE FUCK DOES? Because he was disabled he’s supposed to be OK with random people patting him on the head? This one sentence fills me with extra rage.

  • I was just saying this exact thing to my husband last night! Where is the public outrage like they had for Trayvon Martin or Kaylee Anthony or any number of deaths that the media sees fit to push at us on the news. The fact that he had Down syndrome and heart problems is irrelevant–the fact remains that he is dead and those cops are responsible for it. Period.

  • Thank you for sharing that! I’m so astonished by this series of events. Did anyone at any time ask what could be done differently ‘next time,’ to prevent another death?

    • yes, they are talking about a training – and also for an independent investigation. I’m concerned about those officers not receiving justice NOW though; that this will boil into one big “oh, its because of Ds, so sorry. We’ll be nicer in the future” kind of thing. NOT ACCEPTABLE

  • I do want to clarify that I think there needs to be justice, that the police officers were out of line (and doubly so because they were off duty. The way the case reads it seems like he was restrained for “resisting arrest” and maybe tried to defend himself against the “officers.”. My question is whether moonlighters, off duty cops, are due the same respect for their authority when they are off the clock.
    There does need to be justice served and of course the victim’s death is tragic.

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