The week came to an emotional end with Emma's two-hour interview today. There are no words to describe how well she did. If you're interested at all in what happened the night of January 12th and the eight months since then, you really need to listen to her yourself. I can't describe or summarize the emotion involved in her story. If you do listen to her you'll want to reach out and hug her or, like Gail Zahtz did, let her know how amazing she really is and how her brother Ethan would be proud of her. She's one of the "good guys."
Emma told the heart-wrenching story of that fateful night from her perspective. She shared with listeners exactly what happened, as far as she knows. As you listen to her, one of the people closest to the situation, you realize how much the family still doesn't know. You realize that the theater personnel and many of deputies most likely recognized Ethan. It's still not clear whether the three deputies that were responsible for his death actually knew him, but he was well known within the department. But this is just one of the many unanswered questions that Emma and her family are dealing with.
Some are simple things, things that a well documented, unbiased report would show. For example, were the lights on or off? How exactly did the group go down to the floor? Did they fall, or did the officers initiate the move? How did the cartilage in his throat get fractured? Did the sheriff's office participate in any training on developmental disabilities? What is the proper protocol in this type of situation and was it, or any training disregarded? Why was the health care worker kept out of the theater and away from Ethan? So many questions remain that were not addressed in the initial investigation of the death (conducted by the same department that the "suspects" were employed by) or the grand jury investigation / hearing (which only heard from Sheriff's department personnel and read witness statements). They will also not be within the scope of the current Department of Justice investigation because they are only looking at Ethan's rights under the ADA. They will look at things like accommodations, but not things like how his throat was injured. And so far, no one is offering any answers.
Emma de-bunked two myths that have been circulating in the "comment" sections of many articles for months. Many blame Ethan's "young and inexperienced" health care worker for leaving him alone to get the car. According to Emma, it was a kind of compromise that he was familiar with. That night, it was late and he was tired. He didn't want to walk the huge parking lot to get to the car. His worker told him, okay, you wait here and I'll get the car. Emma said, "It's what any of us would have done." Ethan was fully capable of waiting alone, he just didn't want to that night. No one could have anticipated what would happen next.
She also addressed the "packed theater" theory. Some have suggested that it was unreasonable to expect the theater manager to wait for Ethan to leave on his own. It has been said that the theater full of people should not have been inconvenienced by one man. There were seventeen people (17) in the theater that night. There are 17 witness statements in the report. Not a crushing "packed house" capable of creating a riot like people have been assuming.
Even though the facts of the story, scarce as they may be, are distressing the most difficult part of all of this, Emma says, has been adjusting to what she's missing. Emma talked about her relationship with her big brother, how he loved to make her coffee and breakfast. She said how proud she was of him for being able to "use his words" that night and stand up for himself. She also talked about the duty she feels to keep fighting. "There's no way we're giving up just because somebody said no." "I would never forgive myself if I gave up now."
"There's always going to be a hole now." "There isn't a normal anymore."
I urge anyone who is even slightly interested to listen to her voice, the voice she lends to her big brother.
I challenge anyone to listen to the whole story and not be moved to action.