WASHINGTON (WUSA9) -- Patti Saylor, the mother of a 26-year-old man with Down syndrome who died in police custody, testified Tuesday before the U.S. Senate to share her son's story.
Ethan Saylor died while in police custody in January 2013 after three Frederick County Sheriff's deputies, moonlighting as movie theater security, forcibly removed him from a Frederick movie theater for not having a $12 ticket.
At the hearing on Tuesday, Patti Saylor said deputies dragged Ethan from his seat and tried to handcuff him. Patti said deputies disregarded her and told her to stay out of the viewing area.
Follow @DebraAlfarone for the latest updates in the hearing. She'll have the full story Tuesday evening.
"Today I am here as a devoted mother and dedicated advocate for people with disabilities," reads Patti Saylor's written testimony. Patti is hoping that sharing Ethan's story will bring change to how law enforcement responds to disabled Americans.
Chicago Police Deputy Supt. Al Wysinger and Minnesota Judge Jay Quam also testified.
Saylor has been recognized as a major advocate for people with Down Syndrome, earning the title of "Advocate of the Year" by the National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS). She and her family have worked tirelessly to try and get justice for Ethan, amassing more than 400,000 signatures on a petition asking Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley to re-open the investigation into the three deputies' response, and successfully asking for a commission to look into and adopt statewide training for law enforcement to better handle situations including individuals with developmental and intellectual disabilities.
It was January 12, 2013, when Ethan and his aide went to a local movie theater in Frederick. While waiting for his support staff to retrieve their car after the movie, Ethan decided he wanted to remain for another showing. He verbalized to the officers his intent to remain and refused to leave his seat. Ethan was restrained face-down by three plainclothes officers moonlighting as security. Ethan died from asphyxiation from a crushed larynx while handcuffed. The medical examiner ruled his death a homicide. A grand jury later found no wrongdoing on the part of the deputies.
Frederick County Sheriff Chuck Jenkins said he stands by the three deputies in whose custody Ethan died. He also said he believed his men did not use excessive force. The Justice Department is still investigating. Saylor's family filed a lawsuit against the three deputies, the Frederick County Sheriff's Department, Regal Cinema and the property manager for negligence in regards to Ethan's death. The lawsuit cities that negligence caused Saylor to die a "violent, terrifying, and painful" death.
Join WUSA9 as we #StandForEthan. Use the hash tag #StandForEthan on Twitter and Facebook. We're supporting Ethan's family and friends by not letting his death go forgotten.