The family of a deaf Charlotte motorist who was shot and killed by a state trooper last week are calling for more training for police in dealing with hearing-impaired drivers.
Daniel Kevin Harris, 28, was shot in his University City neighborhood Thursday after he and Trooper Jermaine Saunders apparently got into an altercation after Harris didn’t pull over for a speeding ticket.
The State Bureau of Investigation is investigating the shooting but did not return an Observer call Monday. A candlelight vigil for Harris was scheduled for Monday night.
Harris’ family, in an online post seeking money to pay for his memorial service and cremation, said he was not armed.
“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,” the family wrote.
The family said it hopes for motor-vehicle registration changes that would alert police to a hearing-impaired driver when officers look up computerized license plate information. “With this change, Daniel will be a hero in our deaf community,” it said.
The Census Bureau, in a 2012 estimate, reported that 130,610 North Carolina residents 18 to 64 years old had hearing disabilities.
“There have been too many incidents with tragic consequences between law enforcement officers and deaf people,” Howard Rosenblum, chief executive of the National Association of the Deaf, said in an emailed response to Observer questions.
“Too often, officers make verbal orders for individuals to comply and act aggressively when those individuals do not comply. Deaf individuals often are unable to understand the verbal commands of law enforcement officers, and this has led to many physical altercations between law enforcement officers and deaf individuals over the years, with some resulting in death.”
The association says law enforcement officers should get intensive training to recognize when individuals may be deaf or hard of hearing. Some officers should be trained to communicate in American Sign Language, it says.
Spokesmen for North Carolina’s State Highway Patrol did not return calls about its training.
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.
Harris was found guilty of resisting an officer in 2010 when he lived in Connecticut, according to public records.