#StandForEthan: A mom's story on Capitol Hill

WASHINGTON (WUSA9) -- Patti Saylor has been telling her son Ethan's story for 14 months, ever since the night he died in police custody.

Ethan was 26, and had Down Syndrome. She says her son's human rights were disregarded when three deputies forcibly removed her son Ethan from a Frederick, Maryland movie theater in 2013 for not having a $12 ticket. He later died from asphyxiation, and his death was ruled as a homicide.

The deputies were cleared of any wrongdoing.

Patti says he did not deserve to die, "Ethan was the most loving, compassionate person on the planet, no one ever met Ethan that didn't walk away with a smile," she says.

Patti is hoping Ethan's story might prompt Senators to push for the training she says is desperately needed in the law enforcement community. It may be the most influential audience Patti has ever told this story to, the Senate Committee on the Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights. Patti told Senators Ted Cruz, Dick Durbin and Al Franken what she says happened that night, "The officers proceeded to physically remove him from the theater, dragged him from his seat, tried to handcuff him, when that didn't work while he was standing, they placed him on the ground, prone restraint, put handcuffs on, and my son died of asphyxiation on that floor of that movie theater."

Patti was one of five people in a panel who got to share their testimony, "I want to tell you that I'm here as a grieving mother, it's been 14 months, I'm not sure that will ever stop." First Deputy Superintendent Alfonza Wysinger of the Chicago Police Department, Sergeant A.D. Paul, of the Plano Police Department of Plano, Texas, Judge Jay M. Quam of the Fourth Judicial District of Minnesota, and Author Pete Earley of Fairfax, Virginia all told their stories to bring light to the plights of those with intellectual and developmental disabilities as well as mental illness.

You can see Patti's written testimony here: http://www.judiciary.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/04-29-14SaylorTestimony.pdf

After her five-minute testimony, Senator Ted Cruz asked Patti, "What do you think law enforcement can do and should do to prevent future tragedies like the tragedy that happened to your son?"

Patti responded, "First of all, we need to build the capacity within our community for a relationship between law enforcement and people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Second, obviously law enforcement needs to have training. but with that training, it needs to be dispelling some myths and assumptions. because there was an assumption that my son might be violent or harmful...that wasn't the issue."

Senators Ted Cruz, Dick Durbin and Al Franken and a packed room in the Hart Senate Office Building listen to Patti's plea.

Patti says she thinks it went well, "I think all three senators were very attentive and have a genuine interest in this subject or they wouldn't have been here today."

WUSA9 is taking a #StandForEthan and it is obvious from all the social media activity and the packed hearing room that others are too. It makes Patti feel like she is not alone, "I'm so excited and pleased that other people are taking a stand for Ethan, for my son, so that he's not forgotten."


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