Robert Ethan Saylor

Robert Ethan Saylor

Robert Ethan Saylor started to lose his balance as off-duty sheriff’s deputies were escorting him from a movie theater and the deputies used that opportunity to take him to the ground and place him in handcuffs, a sergeant wrote in an incident report released this week.

Sgt. Michael W. Easterday wrote that he spoke with Sgt. Rich Rochford, one of the three off-duty deputies involved in Saylor’s in-custody death, at Frederick Memorial Hospital less than an hour after he was taken by ambulance from the Regal Cinemas Westview Stadium 16.

Easterday wrote that after the deputies took Saylor to the floor, they noticed that he was breathing, but not conscious, and called for paramedics.

Cpl. David W. DeWees, who was contacted by Easterday about the death investigation, wrote in his report that Rochford tried to first speak with Saylor at length, knowing that he had Down syndrome.

DeWees wrote that Rochford, who had traveled from the theater in the ambulance with Saylor, was visibly shaken.

“He told me that they did nothing wrong and cannot understand how Mr. Saylor is deceased,” DeWees wrote. “I recognized that Sgt. Rochford was upset and somewhat in shock regarding the events. He needed to be removed from the scene at FMH. I had him sit in my patrol car temporarily.”

The two other deputies involved — Lt. Scott Jewell and Deputy First Class James Harris — remained at the theater until Easterday arrived and took over the scene, according to his report.

A use-of-force report included in the disclosure is incomplete.

The report includes a description of the incident completed by Rochford, but a portion in which supervisors review the actions and determine whether the use of force was reasonable is left blank.

The Frederick County Sheriff’s Office referred calls Tuesday to Daniel Karp, an attorney who handles cases for the agency when there is the possibility of a lawsuit. A woman who answered the phone at his office said he was not available. A message left with her and an email were not returned.

Joe Espo, a Baltimore-based attorney for Saylor’s family, said he doesn’t understand why the incident report of the 26-year-old New Market man’s death wasn’t released until more than three months after an internal affairs investigation ended.

Saylor died Jan. 12.

The last supplements to the 98-page report, which investigated whether the three deputies used excessive force when removing Saylor, were filed April 2. The report is dated April 10.

“I have never understood why it took so long between the completion of the end of the investigation and the announcement by the sheriff on April 12 that the investigation had concluded and the deputies were back to full duty,” Espo said Tuesday.

He said his initial reaction after reading parts of the report were that the entire event didn’t have to take place, Espo said.

“The witness statements make clear that Mr. Saylor’s aide asked both the theater employee and at least one of the sheriff’s deputies to give her enough time to resolve the problem on her own or with Mr. Saylor’s mother, who was only a few minutes away. Instead of allowing that to happen, they pressed on,” he said.

The incident report and attached documents revealed the following additional details:

  • Twenty-two written statements were provided to the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office.
  • The involved deputies gave first aid to Saylor.
  • Paramedics arrived at the theater eight minutes after Rochford called for their assistance.
  • One witness said Saylor was given a Miranda warning.
  • There were no cameras in the theater that captured the scuffle on the floor.
  • In follow-up interviews, no one said they saw the officers grab Saylor in the neck area or in a chokehold.

In the written statements and follow-up interviews, witnesses gave conflicting accounts of the confrontation. When asked, some of the witnesses said they believed the deputies acted professionally; others said they thought the force was excessive.

The theater employee who called deputies to the theater to help remove Saylor after speaking with his caregiver told investigators that Saylor “stiff armed” Rochford, pushing him backward.

The employee said he wasn’t sure how the four men ended up on the floor of the theater, but one of the deputies landed right on top of Saylor.

Some witnesses stated that they heard scuffling but could no longer see it because of a wall along the entrance ramp. After Saylor stopped calling for help, they heard Rochford radio for assistance from paramedics, according to the reports.

The call was made at 10:52 p.m., according to scanner communications obtained by The Frederick News-Post. The paramedic unit radioed that they had reached the scene at 11 p.m.

Before they arrived, the deputies had turned Saylor on his side and he was making snoring sounds. The theater employee reported that they gave Saylor chest compressions, but did not use a CPR mask because he was breathing on his own.

One witness told investigators that he heard Saylor being read his Miranda rights during the scuffle. On Tuesday, Karp told The Associated Press that Saylor was trespassing in the theater when he was approached.

Cameras did not capture the confrontation in the theater, but were installed in the theater’s lobby area.

On Jan. 23, Cpl. Greggory A. Warner asked for supplemental reports from all agency personnel who responded to the theater or the hospital. On Jan. 23 and 25, he asked seven deputies whether they heard that a chokehold had been used. All seven said no. Follow-up interviews with witnesses to ask whether they saw the officers grab Saylor in the neck area were conducted Jan. 28. The three witnesses said they did not see the deputies’ hands or arms in the neck or shoulder area.

Saylor was pronounced dead at Frederick Memorial Hospital. An autopsy revealed that the manner and cause of death was homicide by asphyxiation. The medical examiner said that Saylor’s health problems and his weight contributed to his death.

A grand jury considered the case in March and declined to pursue further investigation.

Espo said he was still reviewing the documents Tuesday afternoon after receiving them Monday, along with the AP.

The Frederick News-Post was not notified of the documents’ release, despite a Public Information Act request filed Jan. 21.

The documents were released to the News-Post on Tuesday, after the paper produced a Feb. 6 response letter from the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office acknowledging the initial request.

Espo said Tuesday that he could not comment about whether the family will file a lawsuit.

Follow Danielle E. Gaines on Twitter: @danielleegaines.

(69) comments


Does anyone know how to get a copy of the report? If someone has it, please share it!


Law enforcement has a professional duty to have training in the risks of positional aphyxia. Claiming that an accused offender is at fault for their own death because they are overweight is unacceptable.



Government agencies who receive federal funds need to comply with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 or risk lossing all federal funding.

Government agencies who do not receive federal funds must comply with Title II of the American with Disabilities Act.

Law enforcement agencies must provide reasonable accommodations to applicants, offenders, victims, and witnesses. See




Before Title III of the American with Disabilities Act was made law, theatres made people in wheelchairs transfer out of their wheelchairs and took the wheelchairs out of the theatre. Wheelchair bound customers were often treated poorly and left sitting until well after the movie had ended.

To be in compliance a public accomodation such as a theatre needs to write a plan on how it will meet the needs of people with disabilities. Long ago, Pizza Hut hired disabled people to go to restaurants around the country to "test" their compliance. Now twenty (20) years post-ADA, business needs to get with the program.



All good comments my loyal subjects. Play nice now.


Frederick has no kings. Just full of yourself aren't you. Have you ever had that ego mania looked at?


Freddy - were you a witness? No, I didn't think so. I base my comments on the report. So yes, I have some idea of what the deputies did and didn't do. I think a lot of people made stupid decisions here - including the theater manager, the caretaker and the parents. Why did not one of those people suggest just paying for the ticket and letting him watch the movie until the parents could get there and take charge? But ya know what? The deputies are supposed to be trained in keeping the peace. They are supposed to have the training and the expertise to deal with incidents and use good judgement. They are held to a higher standard than the other participants in this tragedy.

Otherwise, we could just slap a badge on and give a gun to anyone - the likes of you, for instance - and tell them to go shoot bad guys.


A lot of good comments. I must not be in Frederick any more! touscents is right--you don't give CPR to someone who is breathing. There is a danger of breaking their sternum, etc., so it's a last resort. As for "we did nothing wrong," it depends on what you mean by that. I think the deputies mean that 1) we followed the rule book 2) we did nothing illegal. So far, so good, but they ignored common sense and good judgment, neither of which have rule books, and of course a dash of compassion would not have gone amiss. Zimmerman "did nothing wrong" too, but in both cases people ended up dead who shouldn't have died. Frankly, you see the same attitude in business: if we do x, we follow the rules and might see a small profit. But if x goes south on us, we destroy the company (cf. Lehman Bros. et al.). So they go ahead and do x and ignore the risk. The deputies could see (I assume none of them are blind) that Saylor had physical issues. What could go wrong if they confronted him? None of us has time to go through the long list of bad possibilities. At least part of that list should have flashed into the mind of at least one deputy, and he SHOULD have said, "Whoa, what's the upside here? The price of a movie ticket? What's the downside? One or more people getting injured and/or killed...let's go easy here." Simple. Common sense. "We did nothing wrong"? Maybe, but they didn't do anything right, either.


Why didn't the nurse who was taking care of him in the theater just buy him another ticket and than there would be no need for the deputies? They could have left any time during the next film.


Seven...... you haven't a clue what those officers did or did not do prior to having to physically grab a hold of Mr. Saylor! Monday morning quarterback all you want! Guessing is the only thing you can probably do although that you can't even get close to right. Go back to crocheting your blanket!


A disabled man is dead over a $10 theater ticket. It could have been easily avoided. The victim was not threatening anyone when the deputies arrived on the scene. Instead of thinking for a second, when there was clearly no imminent danger, the deputies went right straight for the most violent, physical confrontation they could think of (they weren't armed or I imagine they would have shot him dead). The problem is, this isn't keeping the peace and it isn't justice. It was maybe the reaction an untrained mob would have. The culture at the sheriff's office is one of using the highest level of force for every situation. That needs to be changed.

Comment deleted.

Thank you for your weak attempt to insult me. Get in line. And yes, one’s ability to read, write, and to convey their thoughts via the medium they are using is a reflection of intelligence.


This is so wron on so many levels! that poor family. they need to sue the police.


Deputies said they did chest compressions while he was breathing. Correct me if I am wrong, but I think that is against CPR protocol. Or is Mkimberly correct that the snoring noise was blood going into his lungs? Was that due to injuries inflicted by the deputies? They contributed, but so did the victim's health and extreme agitation. Lessons were learned about empathy, so his death has some purpose.


As a taxpayer I would be willing to pay higher taxes to enable the FCSD to lure higher quality of deputies. Because the deputies were exonerated that doesn't absolve them failing to defuse a minor situation without loss of life.


Mr. Saylor is still deceased!


The operation was a success. Unfortunately, the patient died.


Frederickhole, you must be a proctologist because you seem to be an expert in what is in people’s behinds.


No, but it sounds like you are.


Whoa - such a stinging retort....


Well said dressthebird! [thumbup][thumbup][thumbup] Half of my middle school kids would have had better comebacks.


Is that you Woody?


Two things killed Ethan:

1) mis-judgement
2) over-reaction


Seriously? [angry]


I see a common thread here. Those who wish to crucify the law enforcement and champion Saylor as a poor, helpless and misunderstood child who only wished to create rainbows and cotton candy are idiots. Their poor use of the English language is obvious in their inability to spell above that of a 4th grade level. President8444, the words you wish to use are knew, not “new,” and myth, not “mith.” FormerFCPS, you must have been an assistant janitor with the FCPS system as you have proven over and over that you cannot spell. The word is Deputy, not “depity.” Those who seem to have common sense on this topic are at least well spoken and take the time to spell check. They make rational conclusions after presenting their argument. I may not agree with what they say, but at least I respect their ability to make an argument.

Comment deleted.

So, you're basically saying that they're trolls and they're dumb. That seems about right to me.


spelling police!!! and don't disparage assistant janitors, they are as good as you.


FNP, re-hash much?[sad]


I still want to know why these deputies, who were off-duty and working for a private concern when they killed Mr. Saylor, have been protected throughout this affair as if they were on the job when this happened. As for the rest, we no longer patronize that theater, or any other theater owned by Regal. HBO is good enough for us, thanks, and it's a lot safer.


The few and the proud have to take all the jobs and all the money. Don't make enough money on their day job to feed their needs and wants.


It's not snoring you morons, it's called agonal breathing and happens when a person is dying...because his throat was crush and blood was pouring into his lungs! These 3 men and jenkins are nothing but animals and should be caged as such!


They did nothing wrong. They did their jobs as instructed and as they see the world. That is part of the problem; they are law enforcement officers, nothing more (even their part-time jobs involve enforcement). They have a very limited world view and a narrow way of looking at complicated situations. For decades, report after report has suggested that the "culture" of policing in general change. Yet, it becomes more and more paramilitary and the haircuts become shorter and shorter (symptom of this para-militarization). A person with half-a-brain would have look at this gentleman, listened to the care provider, and realized that this situation would take a little more tack then your daily teenage movie freeloader.

Main problem is that police officers hire police officers. Citizens need to hire the police force and citizens must review police actions on most if not all matters. Tear down the thin blue line.


RIGHT online: it's not cops we hate, it's injustice. You don't get "a pass" just because you claim to be the good guys. Injustice is injustice regardless of who commits it. We need complete and total civilian oversight of all military and para-military forces in this country. Today there is zero accountability by them...and as along as they can keep you scared to death there won't be


I wouldn't expect to much from Ms., she has a hate stick up her butt. [wink]


And you don't get a pass for spouting nonsense on the Internet either. We already have "total civilian oversight of all military and para-military forces in this country." Are you familiar with how our local, state, and federal governments are structured... how about elections, are you familiar with those?


From what I read the incident intially started outside when the caretaker went to get her car and left him waiting to be picked up OUTSIDE (and he punched the window of a Lenscrafter store, too.). He apparently went back into the theater without paying right after that. If I did that I'd be arrested. Why didn't they both walk out to the car?


False equivalence. You are not developmentally disabled nor suffering from frontal-lobe impairment.


So, we should apply the law differently for different people? That sounds like it will work out just great.


Yes children and people with developmental disabilities lack adult judgement. That extends to some FNP commenters as well.


What is disgraceful, after acknowledging he had Down's before they pounced on him, if I was moonlighting private security, all three should have offered up $6 to just let the guy stand down and let the caregiver taking him out when he was calm and ready. Far be it for these moonlighters to offer up $6 each, but instead cause a major incident that will cost the county plenty.


I hope the deputies are proud of themselves -- killing a special needs man over a $12 movie ticket. Nothing will ever excuse what they did. If they treat a Downs' person like this, I fear what they will do when they respond to an elderly person who is confused. Can you image how that will turn out? Jenkins needs to get these guys off the road NOW. How many others are they going to kill? I agree. If they were security guards and not off-duty deputies, they'd be behind bars. Hope the DOJ steps in, and does its job to get these killers off the street. They are a threat to citizens and people who may travel through the county. It's time to stop the blame game.


Hmmmm, on one hand they knew had Down's Syndrome, on the other, they thought he was mentally competent to read him his Miranda rights, after they had already determined he was mentally deficient. What a snow job here. I can tell by looking at him he has Down's Syndrome. And you don't react by 3 men tackling him, when they are OFF DUTY! If a private security firm had acted in the same way, they would all be in jail and sued out the wazoo. I hope the families attornies hit these guys hard. Inexcusable. I am often called aggressive, but I have had many experiences with Down's Syndrome people, and had no problem interacting with them and calming them down. These deputies were complete amatuers.


Just because someone looks like they have Down's Syndrome it doesn't mean they are totally mentally incompetent.




If they killed him on purpose, the deputies are criminals. If they killed him by accident, they are inept at their jobs. Which will the Sheriff's Department go for?

I prefer to think they are just unable to do their jobs properly, but that is just because I am generous.


What if he died due to medical complications related to his physical condition that were beyond the knowledge and control of the police officers? That is possible and certainly more likely than the police "killed him on purpose" option, isn't it? So, why did you leave that option off?


Law enforcement needs to make accommodations for medical complications. It is no longer acceptable to throw a diabetic who is having an insulin reaction into the drunk tank without noticing the medic alert bracelet they are wearing.


So just because the care giver told officers he was having an outburst and to just leave him alone, they should have backed off? Seriously. People believe this? So next time my friend gets drunk and starts breaking things walking down the street I should just tell officers to back off, I'll get him to stop, we just have to wait him out. After all he's not hurting anyone. Folks this is a tragedy no doubt, but to blame officers because they didn't listen to the care giver who told them to back off is nonsense. Maybe when they serve warrants from now on they should contact a friend first to we if they can talk to the criminal and get them to give up. The police did tier sword duty and job. If it were anyone else in that theater the would have removed them also. Mainstream is mainstream life. Move on with this FNP and stop trying to convict police officers in your news paper. You are the most bias paper against police I have ever read.


Aree you insinuating he was on a mind altering substance, such as your drunk friend? Hardly.


FNP why continue .Never blame the family who new he had a split personality,not good. All are not created equal,proof positive a mith by some.


Not split personality. It is called Down's Syndrome. Troll.


Aww look, a troll calling a troll a troll...Imagine that. [wink]


We all are equal just because we live. You can not take my life from me just because you think you are better than me.


sourdough, i disagree, The escort totaly obeyed and coneyed pertinent information, Saylor was with in his rights to be in public, And acording to Maryland State law you have a right to fail, you have a right to do things that may bring disatisfication back onto you. The Police were totaly correct.
The fault [ there realy is none acording to the current laws] is no one wants to pay extra tax dollars to help protect persons such as saylor from himself.
The Care giver [ making there 8.00 per hour] did exactly what they were supposed to do.
so, all those in favor of not paying a living wage to caregivers,, raise you hands LOL


Define living wage? Is that the only job she held?


Surely you aren't that braindead to know what "living wage" means.[wink]


The blame lies solely on the escort. The sheriffs didn't need to cuff him because he didn't lea ve. They should have been able to detect his disability and dealt with it accordingly. After all the show will always go on.


Didn't you read? They knew of his disability. That is what makes it appalling.


Just beating a dead horse here...and feeding the local cop-haters. Let it go. It's over. Let it go.


I am a big cop supporter, but they were way over the line on this. Not so supportive of the FCPD though. I had to chase out on street broad daylight drug dealers across from an Elementary school, even after I called police twice and they just drove by.


How many comments are you going to repeat?


Oh, and for all you who do not know, Forget the group homes and "organized institutions here in Frederick county, they only take "certain" persons who are low levle risks,, and higher profits.


wmpratt, good points, all part of the problem. But what does this mean for persons with such volatile inablities to be in our public areas. Does the public need to be held responsible because he had disabilities that were so severe that he met his death.
Does the freinds he had become responsible because they goaded him on at times.
This person was noted around alot in Malls and ares. He was well accepted by all but everyone knew not to be around him when he was upset.
That is the real issue here. How much mainstreaming should there be, and if tragedies like this happen, Is anyone held responsible for his behaviors.


Good point. Also not sure how wise it was to only an inexperienced caretaker with him.


Obviously something wrong was done or Saylor wouldn't have died. I don't necessarily blame the officers. The way I see it is two mistakes were made. One is allowing public police officers to rent themselves out as private security creating a conflict of interests. Did the now privately employed officers fee obligated to follow theater personnel’s orders to remove Saylor quickly?

The second problem is police training. Are they trained to approach each situation independently or do they treat everyone the same? Is it normal for officers to ignore instruction of a person trained in dealing with this kind of situation (namely the caretaker’s instructions)?

What should be done?

No more moonlighting as private security. And if officers do take a private job they forfeit any and all police powers including carrying a weapon while on the clock of for a private company.

And training for special circumstances. The normal procedures sometimes do more harm than good.


Not oppossed to police working private security. But at the same time, pouncing on a person with Down's Syndrome is way beyond what they should do. A simple letting him sit down in a seat untill his care providerer coaxed him out would have been the SMART and INTELLIGENT thing to do. And that even goes for the usher. Hope my life never depends on any of these thugs. I'll take my chances without them. Hopefully they won't kill any of my pets.


The fact is, this young man [saylor] had a history of agressive, emotionaly volatole outbreaks that were promoted by his personal freinds at there conveience.
The fact is, Even the personal aide warned against any intervention. Which means if they abided by that advice , Saylor would be above the law.
Saylor should not have been allowed to reside in public if his mental status was that high strung.
But, since the 1980s , we abolished state hospitols and persons like this young man simply live where ever they can as best they can.
The deputies did nothing wrong, the wrong lies in our culture that puts persons with severe mental disorders such as this in positions of facing there deaths by simply being mainstreamed.


Using that logic every person with a criminal record shold not be allowed to be in public. They previous demostrated a predisposition to crime and violence. Just lock everyone up who has every committed a crime and throw away the key.

That is in essence what you are saying. That if you have a disablity that at time times may lead to aggression then they should not be out in public. Dementia, Down-sydrome, mental illness, developmental disabilties, MS, ALS, PTSD and even cancer can lead to people acting out. Why don't we lock away every away.


Only in Lalaland would a depity from Freddick County under Uberbelly Quick Draw McJenkins say he did nothing wrong after killing a man. Neither did OJ. If you don't believe me, just ask him.

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