As a mother of three Black sons and feeling they all could have been Trayvon Martin, I was motivated to drive six hours, to Sanford, Florida,in support of justice for this young unarmed man shot dead by George Zimmerman. Trayvon had candy Skittles and a tea, worth about $4.00. I marched with thousands in Sanford, heard speeches, attended press conferences and bought t-shirts with Trayvon's face embedded, that I wear regularly. His family fought for him and as a result, Zimmerman's controversial trial on murder charges is ongoing.
I have to wonder about the support for Robert Saylor, who could've been one of my sons, Dude, 22, who has Down syndrome as did 26 year-old Saylor, a white guy. Saylor was killed, the medical examiner ruled his death a homicide, by Frederick, Maryland police officers, Lt. Scott Jewell, Sgt. Rick Rockford and Deputy First Class James Harris, January 12, 2013. These officers were cleared by the Frederick County Grand Jury after an internal investigation and are back on duty.
Saylor wanted to watch a movie, a second time, at the Westview Promenade Theatre as his 18 year-old caretaker left to get the car. Management told him he had to leave or buy another ticket and Saylor allegedly began to cuss and acted irate. Security was called, Saylor was tussled to the ground and handcuffed, with three cuffs linked together due to his weight, while the caretaker tried to intervene but wasn't allowed. Saylor died from asphyxiation, his throat was crushed. The movie ticket cost $12.
I think of instances where Dude has acted 'irate' in public and management's response to his attitude. At a cell phone store on S. Tryon, in Charlotte, Dude believed he was getting a phone along with his sister as the manager, jokingly, told Dude he would take care of him. As we were leaving, Dude, phoneless, jumped high and banged on the counter. He is basically non-verbal. The compassionate manager laughed, went into his old cell phone box, said "wait a minute, I got you" and produced one for Dude. We all were happy and satisfied with the simple diffusion of this issue. I commend the store owner for his reaction, common sense and the manner in which he did take care of my son.
Once, at BI-LO, Dude grabbed a piece of chicken off of the wing bar, my back was turned, he went down the aisle and next thing I saw were these three large men surrounding him. Thankfully, one of the three recognized 'something different' and stopped the others. I approached, everybody calmed down and I paid the $1.39, thinking, not one of those three Frederick officers had any sense. My son could've been Saylor.
Last month, near Myrtle Beach, S.C, at a souvenir store that also sold confederate flags, samples were offered to everyone but Dude. I went to the restroom, leaving Dude with my oldest son. In a few seconds, Dude had got away,( he is quick), and opened his own box of nuts and began eating. The manager was 'irate', snatched the box and attempted to force me to pay $30 for it, which I refused. Why wasn't he offered some as others were? Dude performed, he jumped up, flew his arms around and screamed some words. The manager called the police as I stood by, thinking about Saylor and how he died. Meanwhile, another manager came forth with a compromise, he asked me to pay $15, which I did and gave the bag to Dude. He calmed down, we left, everybody satisfied. Nobody dead. But, my son could have been Saylor.
People with Down syndrome posses distinctive facial features such as flat nose, almond-shaped eyes, and small ears. The IQ for 'normals' is between 70-130, those with DS, 40-70. A blog comment on Saylor's case stated, “Saylor was a grown man with a child's mentality. There's a widespread bias in the culture towards those with Down syndrome. Eat your heart out to anyone who's bitter over their race, culture, religion or gender suffering discrimination, folks with DS have you beat. Your child could be next...”
Saylor's sister, Emma Saylor, wrote to the Washington Post, June 14, 2013, headlined, "We Need Answers In My Brother's Death” where she demanded an external investigation.
“My brother did not deserve to die over an unpaid $12 movie ticket...because of the refusal of the Frederick County Sheriff's Office to release details of its investigation of those officers, there are far too many things we still don't know...my life is forever changed because of one night, one decision and one monumental lack of understanding...he just needed a bit more patience and understanding.”
The National Down Syndrome Society and the National Down Syndrome Congress join Emma and her family in calling for an independent investigation. I'm willing to drive for justice for Saylor, too. Are you? He could've been My son, just as Trayvon.
Robert Ethan Saylor's last screaming words, “I want my mommy.”