On Thursday evening, North Carolina State Trooper Jermaine Saunders tried to pull over Daniel Harris for speeding. The 29-year-old did not immediately stop his car, sending the official on a brief pursuit. It remains unclear if Harris, whose hearing and speech are impaired, could understand what was going on.
The police report details that Harris got out of his car and an “encounter” occurred between the officer and the driver before a gunshot was fired. Neighbors suggested Harris was likely trying to communicate with Saunders using sign language.
Saunders has been placed on administrative leave while the State Bureau of Investigation reviews the case.
"They should've de-escalated and been trained to realize that this is an entirely different situation," neighbor Mark Barringer told WCNC. "You're pulling someone over who is deaf, they are handicapped. To me, what happened is totally unacceptable."
Harris’ family has started raising funds for memorial and cremation expenses. They noted that the remaining proceeds would be used to better train law enforcement in handling situations with deaf civilians.
“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 page says. “Subsequently, we hope to change the DMV registration system by requiring states to set up a 'DEAF' alert to appear when law enforcement look up a car's license plate.”
This case is yet another example of a preventable police fatality, stemming from the trigger-happy cop culture that shoots recklessly and carelessly without thinking. While police should receive better training on how to handle members of society with disabilities, past cases illustrate that the current paradigm doesn’t even take regard for citizens who officers can readily understand. A cop’s first move isn’t to subdue conflict but rather intensify it.
Thumbnail/Banner Credits: REUTERS/Joshua Lott