Friday, March 29, 2013

An Open Letter to Everyone with a public contact page

Federal Bureau of Investigations
Attn: Robert Mueller, Director
935 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20535

Federal Bureau of Investigations
Civil Rights Division, Criminal Section
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, Northwest
Washington, DC 20530

FBI Field Office – Baltimore
Special Agent in Charge, Stephen E. Vogt
2600 Lord Baltimore Drive
Baltimore, MD 21244
(410) 265-8080 phone.


U.S. Department of Justice
Civil Rights Division
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Office of the Assistant Attorney General, Main
Washington, D.C. 20530
(202) 514-4609; (202) 353-1555
(TTY) : (202) 514-0716
Fax:  202 307-1379

ACLU of Maryland
Executive Director: Susan Goering
3600 Clipper Mill Road, Suite 350
Baltimore, Maryland 21211
Phone: (410) 889-8555; (240) 274-5295
Requests for assistance are accepted on their Civil Rights Complaint Line. The line is in operation on Tuesdays and Thursdays between 1:00 and 3:00 pm: (443) 524-2558.

ACLU – National office
125 Broad Street, 18th Floor
New York NY 10004

Maryland State Police
Criminal Investigation Bureau
1201 Reisterstown Road
Pikesville, MD 21208-3899


Office of the Attorney General, MD
Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler
200 St. Paul Place
Baltimore, MD 21202
(410) 576-6300
(888) 743-0023 toll-free in Maryland
TDD: (410) 576-6372

J. Charles Smith, III
MD State's Attorney, for Frederick County Maryland
State's Attorney's Office
100 W Patrick Street
Frederick, MD  21701
(301) 600-1523   (voice)
(301) 600-2195    (fax)

Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers
203 Cannon House Office Bldg.
Washington, D.C. 20515
phone: 202-225-2006
fax: 202-225-3392


Ladies & Gentlemen:

I’m writing you today to request the DOJ and FBI open an independent inquiry into the death of Mr. Robert Saylor.  

Mr. Saylor had Down syndrome.  He died when he tried to stay for a second showing of a movie.  I do not dismiss the fact that he should have left the theater or bought another ticket.  But he had a caretaker nearby and his mother was on her way to the theater to intervene.  Nonetheless, instead of waiting or involving the family, 3 off duty police officers wrestled him to the floor where he died, just after calling out for his mother. The medical examiner classified his death as a homicide but wrote “This individual was already compromised by his Down’s Syndrome” [sic].  There were 17 witnesses in the theater but none of them testified.  The grand jury of Frederick County, after hearing only from the three officers and the ME, unsurprisingly failed to pursue charges. 

Why?  He died for the price of a movie ticket.  I believe he died because of a continuing bias against those with disabilities, particularly intellectual disabilities.  The autopsy report essentially said he died because of his genetic makeup.  He died because he was different and the officers treated that difference as less worthy of a reasoned, proportionate response.  Less worthy of life and liberty.  

Following a meeting with several national Down syndrome organizations, the DOJ representative is quoted as saying, “We’re trying to assess the situation and see how much community tension there is.” 

The Down syndrome community is not large.  The special needs community in general is too busy dealing with schools and therapies and doctors to march en masse to your office door.  There will be no rioting in the streets.  Mr. Saylor is not an adorable 6 year old girl in ribbons and pigtails so there will be no international press events.  But I ask you – if your child had been wrestled to the ground, handcuffed, and died over the price of a movie ticket, what would you do?  Are these the men you want patrolling your streets?  Do you trust these men to interview your sons?  If Robert Saylor were black or Hispanic or Sikh would the case merit a second look?  Are these officers any less worthy of punishment because Mr. Saylor had a relatively rare disability?  Since when do our civil liberties depend on public outcry?  

I believe the officers in question acted with criminal disregard for the man’s safety, used unreasonable and excessive force, and violated Title 18, U.S.C., Section 242 and Title 18, U.S.C., Section 249.  I believe their actions need to be investigated by an independent agency, one less inclined to protect its own than Frederick County.  I believe the laws and rights and protections afforded this nation’s people extend to every citizen, and those designed to protect the most vulnerable among us must be enforced, independent of “public outcry,” lest we abandon the rule of law and become a nation of bullies and monsters.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Permission to copy, amend, elaborate on, etc. is hereby granted provided you print or email to the addresses listed. :)

And if you haven't the faintest idea what I'm talking about, additional information on the Robert Saylor story can be found at the NY Times (linked) and the Washington Post. Or Google. There are several petitions at but the biggest - and the one signed by Robert Saylor's grandfather - is here.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Happy March 21st!

Three Twenty-One, up
close.  This girl, joy, love defies

But much as I adore this girl, I could not summon the energy last night to make several dozen sugar cookies to accompany my now traditional Down syndrome awareness email-to-the-co-workers.  So I brought pies.  Store bought pies (the horror!).  We didn't celebrate Pi day so I'm calling it a two-fer.  Three-fer if you add in St. Paddy's day.  Happy March!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

According to Wikipedia, the four leaf clover is "an uncommon variation of the common, three-leaved clover. According to tradition, such leaves bring good luck to their finders, especially if found accidentally."  It is not known if the little extra is due to environmental factors or a genetic variant, but I like to think they are, as Rose Mordi of Nigeria put it, a "naturally occurring chromosomal arrangement".

The four leaves are believed to represent faith, hope, love, and luck. All Americans like to tout their Irish roots on March 17th but we celebrate our lucky little extra all year long.
(Yes, I know, duplicate picture - busy weekend!)

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

In Praise of the OtterBox

I have a real post in the works but this will do for tonight.  I couldn't decide whether to call this "Why we don't have nice things" or "Freakish Bit of Good Fortune" and combining them was too long so this will be instead be an ode to the OtterBox which my in laws also wisely purchased when they all chipped in and bought my daughter an iPad.  Six months ago.

I think their primary goal was its use as an AAC so they could communicate with her, but we're still working on that.  In the meantime we have found some other wonderful apps and I am absolutely delighted with how The Girl has taken to it.  So delighted, in fact, that on Sunday I was bringing it so she could show her grandparents the magic they had bestowed while I took The Boy to a birthday party.

Matt was getting ready for work, I was doing my usual frantic I can't believe we're going to be late AGAIN scramble, and I put it on the roof of the car while I wrangled children and gift bags.  I remember thinking that was not the best place for it.  And then I drove off through a monsoon-like rainstorm.

Spoiler alert:  It was, indeed, NOT the best place.

About 20 miles later it suddenly dawned on me what I had done.  I pulled off to the side of the road, fruitlessly checked the roof, and then swore up a blue streak.  I felt ill.  Actually physically ill.  We're very fortunate in a thousand ways, but replacing $600 iPads is sooo not in the budget.  And it had been  gifted barely 6 months earlier from my in laws (!).  AND it wasn't just a fun thing, it was for my daughter, the visual learner, and may even be her primary mode of communication someday.

I couldn't even talk about it.  I left The Boy in the car while I took his sister inside to her grandparents (whose eyes I tried very hard to avoid meeting) because he has never met a fact he hasn't shared and I just could not process my own guilt.  It was wholly my fault and it was such an asinine thing to do - my adrenaline is going again just writing about it.  I called Matt who drove as far as the onramp, but he didn't see it and said it wouldn't have lasted 5 minutes on the highway.  After the party was over,  I collected The Girl and we drove back up and down the highway but it was dark and still raining and we couldn't even find a debris field.

Then I drove up and down the highway a few more times over the next 48 hours.  Nothing.

But at 2pm today my phone (my free phone! why didn't I lose that?) buzzed and reminded me I had a DDS appointment.  Something had just exploded on my desk so I nearly canceled but I was a year overdue so opted for a little "me time" (at the dentist. whee.).  It was clear and dry out for the first time in weeks and... dammit if I didn't see something off on the shoulder of the road, a mere 2' from semis rumbling by at 70mph.

There were shenanigans circling back around (and around. and around) to collect it and I don't love y'all enough to have lingered for a picture of it on the ground next to the fast lane with said semis rumbling by but HOTSHITDAMN look what I found:

I got it home and hotshitdamn if it isn't FINE.  It's still charging and Matt thinks the touchscreen might be a little wonky but that would be repairable (maybe? yes?) with a few dry circuit boards or something.  Right?  I have no idea how they work but suspect iPads, magical as they are, weren't designed to sit in the rain for two days.  Nonetheless, I am positively GIDDY.  First, that thing stayed on the roof of my car in the middle of storm for over 17 miles.  Second?  It fell 5 1/2 feet at 73mph 61mph, landing on asphalt and the screen didn't even crack.  Yes, the OtterBox itself is mangled but it did its job valiantly and then some.  Fourth? What were the odds I'd find an 9x7x1/2" box along 20+ miles of highway?  MAGIC.

Note:  This is not a sponsored post.  This is a thank you note to the Otter people - Thank you for saving my pattootie, my girl's access to a bigger world, and preserving the peace and traquility of all future family functions.
Otters in the rain
Rescued Mommy from her shame
Sweet apple, uncrunched.