A North Carolina state trooper killed a deaf man last week after an attempted traffic stop, authorities and neighbors said Monday.
State trooper Jermaine Saunders shot Daniel Kevin Harris to death on Thursday after what North Carolina Bureau of Investigation described in a statement as “an encounter.”
The bureau, which is investigating Harris’ death, did not provide additional details. In an earlier statement, the North Carolina Highway Patrol said that the trooper tried to pull over a Volvo for speeding.
A brief pursuit followed, the statement says, and the driver, who is not identified, left his car.
“An encounter took place between the driver and the trooper causing a shot to be fired,” the statement reads. The driver died at the scene, the statement adds, and the trooper was placed on administrative leave.
But a neighbor of Harris’, Mark Barringer, who witnessed part of the confrontation, criticized the trooper’s handling of the pursuit.
“They should’ve deescalated and been trained to realize that this is an entirely different situation,” Barringer told NBC affiliate WCNC. “You’re pulling someone over who is deaf. They are handicapped.”
Howard Rosenblum, CEO of the National Association of the Deaf, said in a statement to NBC News that “there have been too many incidents with tragic consequences between law enforcement officers and deaf people.”
Too often, Rosenblum said, officers order deaf people to comply with verbal commands — then act aggressively when they don’t.
“This has led to many physical altercations between law enforcement officers and deaf individuals over the years, with some resulting in death,” he said.
Intensive training should be required for officers, Rosenblum said, and some should be trained to communicate with people who are deaf or hard of hearing.
On a crowdfunding page said to be set up by Harris’ family, a post says that any additional funding raised for a memorial will go toward educating and training law enforcement.
The page says that Harris was unarmed when he was killed by the trooper, although authorities didn’t comment on whether he had a weapon or not.
The post adds that states should change their DMV registration systems so that a police stop triggers an alert showing that the person is deaf.
“With this change,” the post says, “Daniel will be a hero in our Deaf community.”