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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — A deaf man shot to death by a North Carolina state trooper after a chase was scared of police after several misunderstandings with officers, his brother said Wednesday.

Standing beside a memorial where his brother died near the family’s home, Sam Harris said police are all too often inaccessible to deaf people, relating his own story about how he ended up with a gun in his face because he, too, is deaf and couldn’t follow the officer’s shouted orders.

Daniel Kevin Harris “had times where because of the inaccessibility with police, there were misunderstandings that led to him being afraid of the police,” his brother said through an interpreter near a large picture of Harris with “Police Brutality Domestic Terrorism” written underneath.

Daniel Harris had arrests in several states on minor charges, including three for resisting police officers. But those charges in 2010 in Florida and 2008 in Denver were dropped. He pleaded guilty to interfering with or resisting police in Watertown, Connecticut, in 2010. Details of the arrests were not available.

Sam Harris cut short a prearranged interview with The Associated Press after a reporter asked for more information about the police confrontations and if that was what made him more afraid of officers, walking away and motioning for his interpreter to come with him back to the family home.

Authorities have released few details about the shooting, including why Trooper Jermaine Saunders fired at the end of the 10-mile chase that started about 6:15 p.m. Aug. 18 when Harris did not pull over as Saunders, with blue lights on, tried to stop him for speeding on Interstate 485 near Charlotte.

The Highway Patrol’s last statement Tuesday asked for patience as the investigation unfolds.

Saunders, 28, has been placed on administrative leave. Authorities said Wednesday he is black and he became a trooper about two years ago. Harris, 29, was white.

Harris’ family said he was unarmed. The State Bureau of Investigation has not said whether any weapon was found on or near Harris.

Harris loved to play with his 3-year-old son, and his nieces and nephews, his brother said. Sam Harris said his brother also enjoyed the Yu-Gi-Oh trading card game and was eager to get home the night because he had mail saying he had won an important contest.

The family is raising funds for Harris’ funeral and plans to use any extra money to begin a foundation to help educate police officers on interacting with the hearing impaired and calling for a computerized system to alert officers they are dealing with a deaf driver.

“My brother is going to be a hero,” Sam Harris said. “This is what is going to change the system.”


Associated Press writers Jim Anderson in Denver; Curt Anderson in Miami; David Collins in Hartford, Connecticut; and Martha Waggoner in Raleigh contributed to this report.

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12 thoughts on “Deaf N.C. Man Shot By Police Was Afraid After Previous Encounters

  1. ResponsibilityInControl on said:

    This is a sad story and I cant imagine what the family is going through. I am concerned with the fact that this man was alone driving a car and he is deaf, not saying that they cant be independent but this is not safe for him or other motorists. This has never crossed my mind until this situation happened.

    Do not want to discriminate but I do not think that hearing impaired citizens should be driving even with someone who can sign with them wouldn’t that be an added distraction?

    In any event this was not warranted, I think that anyone with a hearing disability that can drive it should be in the system so that when the officer runs the plate it shows they are hearing impaired.

  2. specialt757 on said:

    I hear you redbone, my husband had this same question last night. I don’t know, but obviously somehow they are issued driving permits in every state. I guess they figured by them just paying attention to the road and their surroundings would be enough and using their mirrors, etc…would help them navigate. But I do see a huge problem with deaf people driving, but I’ve actually seen it with my own eyes. This is a question for the DMV, obviously (in this case) the cop was not well trained to identify deaf drivers…unless there is more to the story, there clearly is not enough details in this article. Deaf people drive everyday, I wonder why this story made news, it can’t be the first time they’ve had incidents.

    • It’s not possible to be trained well enough to identify a deaf driver. It’s not like they’re missing any body parts. That would be like trying to identify a mute person just by looking at them. Not possible.

      • specialt757 on said:

        Well I don’t if it’s possible or not for cops to be well trained on identifying deaf people. How about assessing the entire situation before firing your weapon.
        Just like in the first post I made, the cop shot this guy in his own home but for what? Because all he saw was a black man opening his garage, he clearly hadn’t done anything to warrant being shot. They sure are well trained on shooting unarmed black men, so maybe there is a special training on deaf drivers, don’t know but since they are issued driving license, maybe there should be.

      • specialt757 on said:

        Okay I have to make a correction, the black man in my initial post was armed, thinking the car thieves had returned. Relying on one report is not very smart, I stand corrected. The original article does not say he pointed the weapon just that he was armed.

  3. redbone1954 on said:

    I am just wondering how someone who is deaf who cannot hear sirens and may not be paying attention to lights would be driving especially alone. I am not saying that the trooper was right in his decision to shoot but why would he be driving alone and he is not able to hear sirens. It could also be very dangerous if an ambulance or police car is going to an emergency and the driver cannot hear they could be killed. If anyone has any information on how this is done please advise I am just trying to understand. And before Iget any nasty post do undertand that I am trying to understand how this is done.

  4. specialt757 on said:

    Yep cops are quick to shoot first and say I’m sorry later. Today on the news, a cop shot a man in his home who called the police because he saw someone stealing his wife’s car from their drive way. Cops came, the man opened the garage door and the cop shot him in the stomach, thank God he’s not dead. Dang cops, can you at least try to assess the situation before you shoot? This guy didn’t even have a gun and remind you HE was the one who called y’all. WTF?

    • Has happen all to often and once you try to make reports you are turned away! So maybe they need the pen and paper to document there ongoing issues when nothing is done, so they can remember. Its a good thing you can reach out to D.O.J. AND ITS NOT its not toBE FORGOTTEN! They always want you to forget the truths of there Corruption.

  5. The bottom line is-cops need to be re-trained on how to handle any time of situation without always resorting to DEADLY FORCE.

    There was no need for that PIG to kill that young man when he was only attempting to communicate via sign language!!!!!!!

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