This post is by Melissa Stoltz of Garden of My Heart

Robert Ethan Saylor (“Ethan”) died on January 12, 2013. He attended a showing that evening of Zero Dark Thirty at the Regal Cinemas in Frederick, Maryland with his personal care worker.


After the showing, he remained inside the building while his personal care worker went to get the vehicle to go home. Mr. Saylor went back into the theater showing Zero Dark Thirty to watch it again, but did not buy a second movie ticket.


When movie theater personnel were unable to get Mr. Saylor to purchase an additional ticket or leave the screening, they contacted mall security.


Three mall security guards, all off-duty police offers, arrived on the scene. The off-duty officers (Lt. Scott Jewel, Sgt. Rich Rochford, DFC James Harris) first asked Mr. Saylor to leave the theater. When Mr. Saylor refused to leave (witness reports indicate Mr. Saylor was verbally and physically resistant), they used three sets of handcuffs to secure Mr. Saylor’s hands behind his back, and placed him in a prone position on the floor.


In this position, Mr. Saylor stopped breathing. Witness reports state that bystanders noticed he had stopped breathing and informed the officers who then removed the handcuffs and called for medical attention. They attempted CPR.


Mr. Saylor died. The coroner’s report ruled Mr. Saylor’s death a homicide, using the definition that if it had not been for the actions of others, Mr. Saylor would not have died. The autopsy report also states the Mr. Saylor’s diagnoses (Down syndrome, heart disease, and obesity) may have contributed to his rapid asphyxiation.


The Frederick County Sheriff Department performed an in-house investigation. The Frederick County Bureau of Investigation also investigated. The case was brought to a Grand Jury to determine if there was criminal conduct as is common in Frederick County for these types of cases.


Due to the nature of a Grand Jury, it is unknown what occurred during witness testimony. However, the State’s Attorney for Frederick County has confirmed that the three officers involved, as well as the Lead Investigator and Deputy Medical Examiner, provided witness testimony.


The Grand Jury concluded that no further investigation is needed and did not present criminal charges against the three officers. The officers have received no consequences for Mr. Saylor’s death and continue to work as law enforcement officers.



Press Release from State’s Attorney Office:

NDSC Press Release: Petition Requesting Further Investigation by the Maryland Attorney General and the Department of Justice:



  1. In the grand jury, only the investigator and the 3 deputies were allowed to testify. The DA,Charlie Smith, who is supposed to represent the PEOPLE, would not allow any of the movie theater witnesses, nor Ethan’s aid nor his mother to testify. What a gross dereliction of duty! There’s NOTHING but corruption in the fred. County government!

  2. Was the caretaker found at fault? My thought is that you don’t leave someone inside while you get the car. I would not leave my children inside while I go warm/cool the car. Everyone stays together. This is so sad and unfortunate. A stolen movie ticket does not warrant death.

    1. 1) Ethan was a grown man, not a child
      2) The off-duty police were the ones who got him to his knees and crushed his larynx using techniques that mall cops would not know – which bring ups 2 issues:

      1) security and police ability to work with people with disabilities and
      2) the ethical question of whether or not a cop should be allowed to work as a security officer

      No, the caregiver was not found at fault because she was not at fault. The police officers were.

  3. Sickening and there was no real justice in this case. If it had been a “typical” person there would have been charges. I guess Ethan’s life didn’t matter enough to them.

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