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Published: Mon, August 29, 2016
Economy | By Melissa Porter

Deaf driver killed by trooper afraid of police

Deaf driver killed by trooper afraid of police

Sam Harris, center, older brother of Daniel Harris signs to the crowd during a candlelight vigil along Seven Oaks Drive to remember Daniel Harris, Monday, Aug. 22, 2016 in Charlotte, N.C. Daniel Harris, a deaf man who was shot and killed by a North Carolina state trooper after he didn't stop for the officer's blue lights was unarmed and likely did not understand the officer's commands, the slain man's family says.

The deaf man fatally shot by a North Carolina state trooper was terrified of cops after series of misunderstandings with officers, the man's devastated brother said Wednesday.

Harris was driving a Volvo along Interstate 485 when a trooper attempted to pull him over on suspicion of speeding around 6:15 p.m. Sam Harris described his brother as amusing and sociable, explaining that people enjoyed his company and unique personality.

It is unclear if Harris knew that the trooper had tried to pull him over. Authorities said Wednesday he is black and he became a trooper about two years ago.

Audria Bridges, the State Bureau of Investigation special agent in charge for the Charlotte area, identified the driver in a statement as Harris and the officer as Trooper Jermaine Saunders.

Police have neither released any details about the encounter nor have they clarified whether the trooper was aware that Harris was deaf.

Saunders has been placed on administrative leave, which is standard procedure.

Harris' family is raising money for his funeral and will put any extra money toward educating police officers on interacting with hard-of-hearing people and calling for a computerized system to alert officers they are dealing with a deaf driver, according to the family's posting on YouCaring.com.

"As the officer is speaking to you, it is important to point at your ear so they know that you're deaf", she said.

"My brother is going to be a hero", Sam said.

A review of public records shows a few traffic and other minor charges against Harris from other states, including a Denver police report that says he damaged his employer's vehicle with his own auto after he was sacked a year ago. He pleaded guilty to interfering with or resisting police in Watertown, Connecticut, in 2010.

The National Association of the Deaf works with law enforcement agencies to improve existing training manuals but doesn't have one of its own, CEO Howard Rosenblum said in an email.

"Many at the North Carolina School for the deaf have heard about the fatal shooting in Charlotte".

Morganton Public Safety officials said they also have officers who are highly trained in sign language where more communication is needed.

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