Police Shoot & Kill Unarmed Deaf, Mute Man Using Sign Language During Traffic Stop

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This seriously needs to stop.

On Thursday, state trooper Jermaine Saunders shot and killed Daniel Harris after a traffic violation in Charlotte, North Carolina.

The 29-year-old was deaf, mute, and unarmed.

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The State Bureau of Investigation says the State Highway Patrol officer tried to pull over the man’s Volvo on I-485 for speeding.

However, the car didn’t pull over for the trooper, resulting in a brief pursuit.

The Highway Patrol told Channel 9 that the chase continued onto the Rocky River Road off-ramp, where the officers intentionally bumped Daniel’s vehicle to get him to pull over.

When the chase ended on Seven Oaks Drive — the street where Mr. Harris lived — neighbor Mark Barringer described to WCNC how both cars were damaged:

“I was here in my driveway and I saw the highway patrol car come through and it was smoking really bad. About 10 seconds later, I heard one gunshot.”

The SHP said in a statement that “an encounter” between Daniel and Jermaine caused the trooper to use his gun:

“While on Seven Oaks Drive, the driver exited his vehicle and an encounter took place between the driver and the trooper causing a shot to be fired.”

But residents in the area believe the driver was probably only trying to communicate with the officer through sign language. Mark added:

“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.”

Authorities insist Daniel must’ve seen the troopers’ lights since they followed him on the highway for six miles. However, neighbors exclaim the North Carolina resident most likely wasn’t aware of what was happening, since he couldn’t hear the sirens.

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SBI spokesperson Audria Bridges says investigators are looking into the shootings, saying:

“The SBI is in the process of obtaining all available dash cam or body camera video present on the scene from the State Highway Patrol as well as Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, as CMPD responded to the scene immediately after the shooting.”

On their crowdfunding page, Daniel’s family spoke about the tragic killing, writing:

“His tragic death could have been prevented. Police brutality ends NOW.”

They also called to change the way law enforcement officers approach deaf drivers, adding:

“Our family is raising funds to cover his memorial and cremation expenses (details below). Any monies left over will be used to set up a foundation in his name to educate and provide law enforcement proper training on how to confront Deaf people. Subsequently, we hope to change the DMV registration system by requiring states to set up a ‘DEAF’ alert to appear when law enforcement look up a car’s license plate. With this change, Daniel will be a hero in our Deaf community.”

Jermaine is currently on administrative leave — with pay — while the investigation continues.

Our hearts are with everyone affected by this horrific loss. And, we hope police will eventually use their firearms as their last resort, rather than their first option.

[Image via Facebook.]

Aug 22, 2016 2:32pm PDT

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