Unarmed, deaf man shot by state trooper was afraid of police, brother says

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Wednesday, August 24, 2016

CHARLOTTE, North Carolina -- A deaf man shot to death by a North Carolina state trooper after a chase was scared of police after several misunderstandings with officers, his brother said Wednesday.

Standing beside a memorial where his brother died near the family's home, Sam Harris said police are all too often inaccessible to deaf people, relating his own story about how he ended up with a gun in his face because he, too, is deaf and couldn't follow the officer's shouted orders.

Daniel Kevin Harris "had times where because of the inaccessibility with police, there were misunderstandings that led to him being afraid of the police," his brother said through an interpreter near a large picture of Harris with "Police Brutality Domestic Terrorism" written underneath.

Daniel Harris 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.

Sam Harris cut short a prearranged interview with The Associated Press after a reporter asked for more information about the police confrontations and if that was what made him more afraid of officers, walking away and motioning for his interpreter to come with him back to the family home.

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 6:15 p.m. Aug. 18 when Harris did not pull over as Saunders, with blue lights on, tried to stop him for speeding on Interstate 485 near Charlotte.

The Highway Patrol's last statement Tuesday asked for patience as the investigation unfolds.

Saunders, 28, has been placed on administrative leave. Authorities said Wednesday he is black and he became a trooper about two years ago. Harris, 29, was white.

Harris' family said he was unarmed. The State Bureau of Investigation has not said whether any weapon was found on or near Harris.

Harris loved to play with his 3-year-old son, and his nieces and nephews, his brother said. Sam Harris said his brother also enjoyed the Yu-Gi-Oh trading card game and was eager to get home the night because he had mail saying he had won an important contest.

The family is raising funds for Harris' funeral and plans to use any extra money to begin a foundation to help educate police officers on interacting with the hearing impaired and calling for a computerized system to alert officers they are dealing with a deaf driver.

"My brother is going to be a hero," Sam Harris said. "This is what is going to change the system."