In an apparent case of road rage, a North Carolina state trooper shot and killed an unarmed deaf man for disobeying commands he could not hear.
Highway State Trooper Jermaine Saunders was apparently irate the man did not stop for seven miles after he lit up his patrol car’s lights behind him for speeding.
But Daniel Harris, 29, a hearing and speech-impaired father of a four-year-old boy – who possibly did not hear the sirens – did not stop until he pulled up to his family’s house.
That ended up costing him his life.
Neighbors who witnessed the shooting said Harris’ car spun out of control and he was shot dead with a single bullet within seconds of stepping out of his car and attempting to speak in sign language with the enraged officer.
The cop said he was in fear for his life because Harris was advancing towards him, refusing orders to not advance.
Orders that he could not hear.
“The Highway Patrol car came down across here. He [his car] was kind of smoking real bad, and then he stopped over here, and then a few minutes later, I heard a gunshot,” Mark Barringer, a neighbor who witnessed the shooting told WBTV. “I saw a body on the street, and it looked like he was dead.”
“It was surreal, you just don’t expect to see something like that,” recalled Barringer.
“When the gunshot went off, it was scary.”
While pursuing Harris for speeding, Trooper Saunders at one point deliberately rammed his Volvo, trying to stop him. But Harris drove on for seven more miles, according to WSOCTV.
According to WCNC News, neighbors and police have conflicting stories about what happened.
Detectives are claiming Saunders and Harris had an “encounter” of some sort before the shooting.
Harris’ brother, Jay, also hearing impaired, told WCCB through a sign language interpreter that his brother was just afraid.
“He was unarmed.”
“And he is a deaf individual, and I think that he was just afraid,” he explained. “He could not hear their warnings. He could not hear their commands to stop or to stay away from them.”
“What is wrong with us, and what is wrong with a system that allows this to continue to happen? It needs to stop,” the grieving brother gestured to the news station.
“Daniel’s death represents that he is a hero in our deaf community. He will raise awareness on this issue so that we can prevent this from happening to other deaf people in our community.”
Trooper Saunders has been placed on paid leave pending an investigation.