The worldwide Deaf community reacted with horror and outrage recently following news that a North Carolina state trooper had shot dead a deaf father who was apparently trying to communicate using sign language after he was pulled over for a speeding violation.
Daniel Kevin Harri, 29, who has a four-year-old son, was killed just feet from his home in Charlotte by trooper Jermaine Saunders in August.
Police say Saunders tried to pull Harris over for a speeding violation on Interstate 485 at around 6.15pm, but the driver led authorities on a brief pursuit before stopping.
Officials said that’s when the driver got out of his car and an encounter took place between the driver and the trooper, causing a shot to be fired. Harris died at the scene.
But witnesses said Kevin – who was unarmed – was shot ‘almost immediately’ after he exited his vehicle.
The dead man’s brother Sam Harris, also Deaf, said: “Daniel had times where because of the inaccessibility with police, there were misunderstandings that led to him being afraid of the police.”
Daniel 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.
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 6.15pm, 18 August when Daniel did not pull over as Saunders, with blue lights on, tried to stop him for speeding on Interstate 485 near Charlotte.
Daniel’s family said he was unarmed. The State Bureau of Investigation has not said whether any weapon was found on or near Daniel.
Daniel loved to play with his son, and his nieces and nephews, his brother said. Sam said his brother also enjoyed the Yu-Gi-Oh! trading card game and was eager to get home that night because he had mail saying he had won an important contest.
The family plan to begin a foundation to help educate police officers on interacting with the hearing impaired and are calling for a computerized system to alert officers they are dealing with a deaf driver.
“My brother is going to be a hero,” Sam said. “This is what is going to change the system.”