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Mizeur calls for state action after death of Frederick County man with Down syndrome

Robert Ethan Saylor is seen here in this undated family photo. (Family Photo)

Del. Heather R. Mizeur, a Maryland gubernatorial candidate, on Tuesday called on Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) to launch a state inquiry into the case of a Frederick County man who died while being arrested for overstaying his visit to a movie theater.

In a letter to O’Malley, Mizeur (D-Montgomery) said she has “grown increasingly frustrated” about the episode, in which three Frederick County deputies sought to forcibly remove Robert Ethan Saylor, who had Down syndrome, from the theater.

The chief medical examiner’s office in Baltimore ruled Saylor’s January death a homicide as a result of asphyxia but a Frederick County grand jury determined in March that no charges were warranted against the deputies. More recently, the U.S. Department of Justice has begun investigating whether the civil rights of Saylor were violated.

“Without giving this matter the full attention of our state government, we risk minimizing the severity of the problem when individuals with intellectual and other disabilities face conflict situations among the general public,” Mizeur wrote.

She suggested O’Malley have his health department investigate local and statewide policies on treatment of individuals with disabilities and establish a task force to implement statewide standards.

O’Malley spokeswoman Takirra Winfield said Tuesday afternoon that the governor was “troubled” by the death of Saylor, 26.

“We have been working with disability advocates to determine what additional steps the state can take to prevent a tragedy like this from ever happening again, including additional training for local and state law enforcement and a review of statewide policies,” Winfield said. “We welcome Delegate Mizeur’s input into this process.”

Mizeur faces at least two better-known Democrats in the gubernatorial primary next June: Lt. Gov Anthony G. Brown (D) and Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler (D).

John Wagner is a political reporter covering the race for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination.

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