A young man with Down’s syndrome in Maryland wanted to sit through another showing of a movie. Rather than either asking him to leave, or leaving him alone (seriously, he sits through another showing, what happens? It’s likely his companion would have gotten him out of there, anyway), the theater calls in some security guards who happen to be off-duty police officers (working for extra scratch? the point is, they weren’t on official duty – I have this information from a friend who lives near there, but it’s not in the article linked below).
The guards took the young man to be mouthing off, knocked him down, handcuffed him, and because people with Down’s have a tendency to have breathing problems when they’re NOT upset, Robert Saylor (the young man with Down’s) asphyxiated because he was knocked around and panicked.
Know what that means? The “security guards” killed him. It was a homicide, not an accidental death.
The best part is that they cited being police officers as the reason they wouldn’t comment. YOU WERE OFF-DUTY, YOU DICKS. You’d best comment, because you killed someone OVER A MOVIE TICKET. Eleven dollars was enough for you to gang up on someone who literally had no idea why you were angry. I’m willing to bet that Saylor thought the ticket price was admission to the theater (like a museum), and that he could watch the movie as many times as he wanted as long as he’d paid to get in, and with the way theaters are set up, I don’t blame him for having that train of thought.
Here’s how you handle someone with a mental disability in that situation (if it’s occurring in a time-crunch like a theater break, get the hell over it and try to keep people from getting hurt, FIRST):
- Find someone they trust. Saylor was with his companion/helper, so that person would have been perfect.
- Explain to the trusted person what the situation is, making sure that the disabled party can hear you, and that you’re not talking about them like they’re not there (or talking about them like they’re stupid – they’re people, to be respected, and trust me, they can tell when you’re talking down to them).
- Supervise while the trusted person explains the situation to the disabled person.
- If the disabled person is combative or gets violent, chances are good that they honestly don’t understand what they’re doing wrong. Back away and let them sit and calm down. If they have medication for asthma, and need it, let them take it…you don’t want a medical emergency along with an emotional one.
- Call their parent, guardian, or other person to come pick them up, while explaining to both the companion and the disabled person what you’re doing. Keep everyone in the loop at all times.
- If none of the above works, LET THEM SIT AND WATCH THE MOVIE, AGAIN. If you insist on payment, get someone to pay you afterwards. It’s not going to kill you to be “in the red” for one ticket for a limited amount of time.
- Throughout all of this, for yourself and for everyone else involved, stay calm. It does no one any good to get worked up over something like this that makes so little difference in the big scheme of things.
- If you absolutely must call an authority, ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS call an EMT along with an officer. You have absolutely no idea what physical maladies a person may have, and chances are always on the side of “yep” when it comes to whether a person with Down’s has a medical condition to worry about. Also? EMT’s are viewed as “doctors” to people with anywhere up to a high-school education, so they’re more likely to be trusted, as well.
Now we have what amounts to another case of pointless police brutality, all over a movie ticket. I mean…seriously.
I know I’m hormonal right now, for several reasons. I know I’m upset because I’m facing some rough things in the next few weeks. I know that I may be taking this personally because of my chosen field of study. But I’m so angry right now, I actually had to take an extra blood pressure pill after reading that article and the information from my friend in the area.
This should not happen. This is the kind of thing that comes from not understanding something, and fearing that which you don’t understand.
Education, in all ways, is your greatest tool…it’s your best defense.
If you have a gun, that’s great, but education is what helps you use it.
If you have a car, fabulous, but education helps you drive it.
And if you encounter someone who’s different, education is what helps you deal with those differences productively.
Please, share this. This doesn’t need to ever happen. EVER. Re-word it if you’d like…find more sources, link them…don’t even link to my blog if you don’t want…but share the story.
Here’s the text shared by my friend:
On January 14, 2013, a young man with Down Syndrome went with his companion to see Zero Dark Thirty at the Regal Cinema in Frederick, MD. At the end of the movie, apparently because he wanted to see it again, he refused to get out of his seat. A Regal employee, rather than allowing him to stay and dealing with the situation later with his parents and the companion, called not one, not two, but three off duty Frederick County police officers who were working security for the theater at the time.
According to published reports, when the officers/ security guards asked him to leave, he mouthed off at them and “resisted arrest”. Those of you who know my son Landon can visualize what this would look like. In response, the officers wrestled him to the ground where he asphyxiated in handcuffs. The handcuffs were removed and EMS called and according to the police news release he later died at hospital. I don’t know how that reconciles with the coroner’s finding of asphyxiation which I thought was pretty immediate.
The price of a ticket at the cinema is between $9 and $11. The additional cost to Regal of allowing him to watch the movie again was ZERO. But instead a beloved young man died on the floor of a movie theater in his neighborhood at the hands of people he was taught would protect him.
The police officers remain on duty and were allowed to invoke their rights as police officers not to provide statements even though they were not on duty or performing official duties at the time. They were security guards in police uniforms.
The county police are investigating and the story has received local news coverage.
As an aside, Frederick County, MD, has a horrible police force, in general, and them doing an internal investigation is, in my mind, not the best thing. I just hope justice (actual justice – trial, impartial jury, sentencing, etc.) occurs.