Robert Ethan Saylor (Photo from Stauffer Funeral Home)
WASHINGTON (WUSA9) -- It was a huge step towards justice today as the family of Robert "Ethan" Saylor finally got to sit face-to-face with Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley and plead their case for an independent investigation into Ethan's death.
Ethan died while in police custody in January after three deputies removed him from a movie theater for not having a $12 ticket.
Patti Saylor shared why today's meeting was so important, "This is a step on the journey on shedding light on what occurred that night, seeking the truth of whatever the truth is."
It has been 8 months since 26-year-old Ethan Saylor died in police custody at a Frederick movie theater. 340,000 people signed Ethan's sister's Emma's petition to ask Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley for an independent investigation into his death and better training for law enforcement.
Sara Weir of the National Down Syndrome Society has been supporting the Saylors every step of the way, "We need an accurate account of what exactly happened, and a push for action."
Maryland Delegate and candidate for Governor Heather Mizeur is part of the fight, "We have to come together to do it better in the future."
The medical examiner ruled Ethan's death a homicide by asphyxia. The Frederick County sheriff's department investigated the three deputies involved, and cleared them of wrongdoing. Today, the family delivered boxes of petitions and sat down with the one person who could help. Our cameras weren't allowed inside, but we talked one-on-one with mom Patti and sister Emma about their long-awaited meeting.
Patti explained what happened in their meeting, "He asked a lot of good questions, he appeared to be listening, he indicated afterwards that he was not inclined to do anything in regards to a special independent investigation because Ethan the due process had occurred ......there was a grand jury, but after listening to more of the facts as we know them, and as we presented them, he said he would need to think about it more."
Emma put the meeting in perspective this way, "We have 340,000 people that agree with us so we're just hoping to add one more to it that can actually do something about it."
The Governor's office issued a statement hours after the meeting:
"The death of Ethan Saylor is a tragedy, and we are exploring all options to ensure that this never happens to another Marylander again. The Governor had a very good meeting today with Ethan Saylor's family and with an advocate for individuals with Down syndrome.
This tragedy has already been investigated by the Frederick County Sheriff's Office and a Frederick County grand jury, and there is a third investigation currently underway by the U.S. Department of Justice. So although the Governor is considering an investigation, he is more focused on forward-looking strategies to protect the safety and rights of all people, including those with intellectual or developmental disabilities, and promoting a better understanding of our all neighbors.
The Governor joins with the many people in Maryland and across the nation to mourn Ethan's loss of life. In the coming days, we will announce actions aimed at improving training for law enforcement personnel and other first responders so that we can do everything we can to ensure this never happens again."