Robert Saylor’s death is not about lack of Down syndrome awareness.Posted: March 27, 2013
Yeah, I really do think this. I’ve used this blog to talk about our family’s personal experiences, but Robert Saylor’s death is a scary glimpse into LP’s (possible) future, and I really need to get this off my chest.
Robert Saylor was a young man with Down syndrome, who was killed by three off duty policemen last month. He refused to leave a movie theater and died of asphyxiation after three off-duty cops decided to hog tie him on the ground.
There is no doubt in my mind that Robert Saylor died because he had Down syndrome. Let me suggest here, however, that we are focusing on the wrong aspect of how Robert Saylor’s Down syndrome played into his death.
The police are saying he was obese and his Down syndrome made him more susceptible to having breathing issues, and that is why he died.
By this logic, we have to accept that the policemen had no option other than to hogtie this man over a movie ticket.
Are you with me, here? I keep reading that various Ds organizations are calling for more police training and awareness of Ds and its related health issues. All this does, in my mind, is shift the focus onto the differences of those with Ds, and whether or not the police are required to know about the health implications of every disability.
Can I, instead, propose the real way in which Down syndrome played into Robert Saylor’s death?
Those three off-duty cops took one look at Robert Saylor, and saw a big, fat, retard.
I’m sorry that sounds harsh but I think it is accurate of their perception, based on the events. They saw a man who was not their equal, and therefore not deserving of any critical thought. Why was this man, clearly disabled, by himself? How was he planning on getting home? Was the theater so full that he had to be escorted out right that very second? If you are three off duty cops moonlighting at a shopping mall, are there many other pressing things to get to? Is there a shooting around the corner that requires your presence? Why is it necessary to escalate the situation to the point of laying hands? Even if you did put your hands on him, why did you have to put him on the ground? There is risk involved every time you physically restrain someone. Was that risk worth it, in that situation?
I think those men did some calculus and weighed the convenience against any possible repercussions, and ultimately, Robert Saylor wasn’t worth any extra effort.
This is a police brutality case, not an awareness case. The family says that Robert Saylor had no ongoing health issues other than his weight.*** If Saylor hadn’t had Down syndrome and was just obese, there would be no question of the brutality of what the police did.
I’ve sent my emails and made my calls. I want to be clear, I don’t object to additional training. I just don’t want the fight for it to add fuel to the logic that somehow, Ds itself was really the culprit of Robert Saylor’s death, when in reality, those three officers are the culprits. At this point, there is a petition here going around in an effort to have an outside agency investigate the officers. There is a petition here calling for more training and awareness and rigorous investigation practices. Maybe the petition will make a difference. I hope it does.
I hope Robert Saylor’s family can find some peace after losing their son, amidst all the politics and bureaucracy. I hope there is space for them to remember who he was, and what he contributed to the world before he had to leave it.
***Update. Stories have now come on the news about the cardiovascular issues that Robert Saylor had (discovered upon autopsy), as well as some personality traits (didn’t like to be touched). This just makes my blood boil. Why is there an urge to dig up all sorts of information on a victim in order to explain why his death was understandable, or perhaps even ok? My stance remains the same. You don’t put a man down on the ground over a movie ticket. There are other ways to escort a person out of an area. Those officers had all the training they needed; they chose not to use it.