Monday, August 29, 2016

Shot and Killed for Being Deaf/Mute

 A North Carolina trooper shot and killed a 29 year old deaf/mute man after a brief very low speed car chase.  The report states that the man was speeding on an interstate and exited the interstate near his home before pulling over to the side of the road at his home.  Eyewitnesses claim that Daniel Harris was shot and killed almost immediately after getting out of the car and that his attempt to communicate using sign language was the reason for the shooting.

A neighbor eyewitness said "They should've deescalated and been trained to realize that this is an entirely different situation, you're pulling someone over who is deaf, they are handicapped. To me, what happened is totally unacceptable."

The trooper is on paid leave while the State Bureau of Investigation investigates.

Friends and family members say the deaf/mute man was terrified of police after earlier encounters.  I could see this happening as without a siren being heard many of us might not look back in the rear view mirror to see a cop following us.  Or perhaps the guy did and knowing he wouldn't understand the police officer screaming orders at him he might have wanted a more public place to pull over.  Regardless, the penalty for waiting to pull over for a safe place isn't likely summary execution in the state of North Carolina.  It was reported that both cars were damaged and that Harris's car was spun out of control, perhaps from the trooper using his car to batter Harris's car and that after exiting the trooper was screaming at Harris to stop and shot him when he didn't.

One can imagine a panicked and fearful officer thinking the worst and a panicked and fearful deaf/mute suddenly finding himself under attack when the squad car hit him and spun his car around.  Then the sign language was interpreted as threatening gestures and the lack of compliance terrified the cop even more till he simply shot the unarmed man dead.

It all comes back to getting back to valuing human lives as much as the life of a public employee.  Some people probably need shooting but that is up to the justice system to decide, not a coward that is enraged that a deaf/mute man won't obey his commands.   Until the day comes that police training and police administrators hold the bad apples accountable or until the day comes that the crazies and gang members start gunning down cops to retaliate I fear we won't see this problem fixed.  God help us all if the gang members decide to take care of business.  Far better to proactively set policies for de escalation or backing off and waiting for backup.