The leading human rights organization for all individuals with Down syndrome.

National Down Syndrome Society
8 E 41st Street, 8th Floor
New York New York 10017
[email protected] 

Letter to the Department of Justice in Response to the Death of Robert Ethan Saylor

April 10, 2013

US Department of Justice
Civil Rights Division
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Office of the Assistant Attorney General, Main
Washington, DC 20530

Dear Assistant Attorney General Tom Perez:

On behalf of the National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS), we are writing to urge the US Department of Justice (DoJ) to conduct an independent investigation and inquiry into the death and case involving Robert Ethan Saylor. Ethan, 26, of New Market, Maryland asphyxiated on January 12, 2013.  His death has been declared a homicide by the medical examiner.

NDSS is the largest nonprofit dedicated to advocating for people with Down syndrome and their families at the federal, state and local levels of government.  NDSS supports over 400,000 Americans with Down syndrome along with their families, friends, teachers, coworkers and others who make people with Down syndrome a priority. At NDSS, we envision a world in which all people with Down syndrome have the opportunity to enhance their quality of life, realize their life aspirations, and become valued members of welcoming communities.  Ethan deserved to be a welcomed member of his community, and we are outraged and deeply concerned by the lack of awareness and judgment by law enforcement.

We ask that an investigation by an outside, independent agency be conducted in the homicide of Ethan.  Not only was Ethan’s death unnecessary, this situation demonstrates a vital need for professionals, such as law enforcement and first responders, to truly understand the nature of Down syndrome as a genetic condition, medical and behavioral cues they can look for, and safe ways to avoid conflict and harm.

Our organization is determined to see to it that necessary and comprehensive actions are implemented to prevent another tragedy of this nature from happening in the future, anywhere in the United States.  We need accountability for this incident but we also need to know what transpired on January 12th to ensure that organizations like NDSS can work with law enforcement and first responders to make certain this never happens to another individual with Down syndrome again.  

Thank you for your attention to this matter and for your timely response.


Jon Colman
National Down Syndrome Society
666 Broadway
New York, NY 10012
[email protected]

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