Crime & Courts

State trooper shoots, kills deaf driver in north Charlotte neighborhood

Friends and family gather to remember Daniel Harris

Friends and family of Daniel K. Harris hold a candlelight vigil to remember Harris, a deaf motorist who was shot and killed by a state trooper last week. DAVID T. FOSTER III - dtfoster@charlotteobserver.com
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Friends and family of Daniel K. Harris hold a candlelight vigil to remember Harris, a deaf motorist who was shot and killed by a state trooper last week. DAVID T. FOSTER III - dtfoster@charlotteobserver.com

A State Highway Patrol trooper shot and killed a deaf driver in the University City area Thursday after the two apparently got into an altercation after the driver refused to pull over for a speeding violation.

The State Bureau of Investigation on Friday identified the man who was shot as Daniel Kevin Harris and the trooper as Jermaine Saunders.

Investigators said the incident began at 6:14 p.m., when the trooper tried to stop a Volvo for speeding on Interstate 485 near the North Tryon Street exit. The driver refused to stop and after a brief pursuit, the driver traveled onto Rocky River Road, exiting into a neighborhood at Seven Oaks Drive, officials said.

“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,” according to a statement from the State Highway Patrol. The driver died at the scene, officials said.

Family members said Harris, 28, lived on Seven Oaks Drive.

Details of the encounter are still being investigated, Audria Bridges, special agent in charge of the SBI office that covers the Charlotte region, said in a statement Friday afternoon. The SBI is in charge of the investigation.

“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,” Bridges said.

Multiple sources confirmed to the Observer’s news partner, WBTV, that Harris had a hearing and speech impairment.

Public records show an interpreter provided sign language for Harris at a court hearing in Florida in 2010. At the hearing, he was found not guilty of misdemeanor larceny and had a charge of misdemeanor resisting property recovery dismissed, records show.

Harris was found guilty of resisting an officer in 2010 when he lived in Connecticut, according to public records.

His family members declined further comment to the Observer on Friday, saying they needed to consult an attorney about the case.

Neighbors said the incident surprised them.

“It’s a little nerve-wracking to come home and have half of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department on the street, along with four or five state troopers,” resident Rick Kralik told WBTV.

“The Highway Patrol car came down across here,” neighbor Mark Barringer told the station. “He was kind of smoking real bad, and then he stopped over here, and then a few minutes later, I heard a gunshot. I saw a body on the street, and it looked like he was dead.”

Neighbor Ryan Russell said he’d see the man out in the neighborhood speaking in sign language with his family. “It seemed like a very peaceful family,” Russell told WBTV. “These things are always heartbreaking.”

Russell asked neighbors to keep the family in their thoughts.

“I’m already working on trying to get people to reach out to this family, because no matter what this guy did, the family is hurting because they lost one of their loved ones,” Russell told WBTV.

Neighbor Pat Johnson, who lives just around the corner from where the shooting happened, echoed those thoughts.

“I asked everybody to keep them in prayer,” Johnson told WBTV, “not just for them, but for the entire community, because it’s a rough time for them.”

Staff Researcher Maria David contributed.

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