Wednesday, August 5, 2015

New documentary details events surrounding death of Maryland man with Down syndrome, Ethan Saylor

From WHAG-TV in Hagerstown, Md.:

FREDERICK, Md. -- A new documentary on the death of Ethan Saylor, a Frederick man with Down syndrome who died while police were restraining him, has been produced. 
Ethan's Law contains accounts from eyewitnesses who claim information they had on the incident was ignored by authorities. 
Saylor, 26, died from asphyxiation on Jan. 12, 2013 when three off-duty Frederick County Sheriff’s deputies forcibly removed him from a movie theater after he tried to stay for a second showing without buying a ticket.
Filmmaker Edward Rhodes said his documentary started as an expose on the incident and during the process, he believes he's uncovered new information.
"The Masser’s themselves feel there was a possible cover-up scenario." Rhodes said.
David and Charlotte Masser were in the theater that evening and said portions of the testimony they provided were not documented by authorities. In a clip from the documentary, David Masser said, “My testimony, I can't speak for anyone else, but mine is very incomplete. There are things that are left out and there are things, when you leave part of a statement out, it might change the meaning of it.” 
"They state on-camera the Frederick Sheriff's department changed their written testimony between the time they gave it and the time they published it in a 98-paged report," added Rhodes.
Rhodes wants viewers to draw their own conclusions surrounding the criminal investigation, but he also wants to highlight Ethan’s legacy, a bill signed into law by Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan this past May.
"Two years later, now we have history. Now, we have Ethan’s Law in Maryland, which states that people with disabilities will be training law enforcement and first responders - and that's unprecedented," Rhodes said.
Rhodes attributed the passage of the law to Ethan’s mother, Patti Saylor, and her determination to make something positive out of a tragedy.
"You get to see how to create a grassroots advocacy campaign and actually get results," Rhodes said.
No criminal charges were filed against the three Frederick County Sheriff's deputies, but a civil case is still underway. Frederick County Sheriff Chuck Jenkins declined to comment on the allegations presented in the film due to pending litigation.
The film is scheduled to debut October 3 at the 2015 Shepherdstown Film Festival. Rhodes has started a fundraising campaign to help cover post-production costs, as well as film festival entry fees. If you’d like to learn more about the documentary or help fund the project, click here.