After trooper kills deaf man, North Carolina family seeks answers

Posted at 2:34 PM, Aug 23, 2016

Days after his deaf and speech-impaired brother was shot and killed by a North Carolina state trooper, Sam Harris wonders whether the shooting happened because his sibling’s disabilities led to a misunderstanding.

No official has said this was the case. But Harris says his family is pressing for more information about why Daniel Kevin Harris was shot near his Charlotte home Thursday after what police say was a roughly 7-mile vehicle chase.

Daniel Harris’ relatives told a crowd of dozens gathered for a vigil outside his house Tuesday night that they want more answers about the 29-year-old’s death.

“The police need to become aware of how to communicate with deaf people, what that might look like and how to avoid situations like this from ever happening again,” Sam Harris, who also is deaf, told CNN affiliate WSOC through a sign-language interpreter on Tuesday.

Here’s what we know so far about the shooting:

Police: An ‘encounter’ happened after driver led trooper on chase

Daniel Harris was driving a Volvo on Interstate 485 in the Charlotte area when a trooper tried to pull him over on suspicion of speeding around 6:15 p.m. Thursday, the North Carolina State Highway Patrol said.

Harris did not stop, but instead exited I-485 and drove to his Charlotte neighborhood, highway patrol Sgt. Michael Baker said.

At the neighborhood, Harris “exited his vehicle, and an encounter took place between the driver and the trooper,” leading to the shooting, Baker said.

Harris died at the scene. Police haven’t elaborated on the encounter or revealed what, if anything, the two had said or otherwise communicated, or whether the trooper knew whether Harris was deaf.

The trooper was placed on administrative leave after the shooting as is usual for any trooper involved in a shooting, Baker said.

Authorities are gathering dashboard-camera and body-camera video relating to the incident from the highway patrol and the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, which sent officers to the scene after the shooting, said Audria Bridges, a special agent with North Carolina’s State Bureau of Investigation.

“Because at least 20 highway patrol officers responded, it is taking some time to get all videos related to (the) incident together,” said Bridges, whose agency is investigating the shooting.

Baker and Bridges declined to answer CNN’s questions about whether Harris was armed.

Neighbor says he heard gunshot

A neighbor, Mark Barringer, told CNN affiliate WBTV that he saw the trooper’s car give chase shortly before the shooting.

“(The trooper’s car) was kind of smoking real bad, and then he stopped over here, and then a few minutes later, I heard a gunshot. I saw a body on the street,” Barringer said.

Another neighbor told WBTV that he’d previously seen Harris use sign language.

“I saw him out in the neighborhood signing with his family,” Ryan Russell said. “It seemed like a very peaceful family.”

Harris’ relatives, friends and neighbors gathered outside his home for Tuesday’s vigil. Flowers and written messages lined a sidewalk.

A page on the crowdfunding site is raising money for what the family says is Harris’ memorial and cremation expenses. Money left over would be used to establish a foundation “to educate and provide law enforcement proper training on how to confront deaf people,” a message on the page says.

Sam Harris told WSOC through the interpreter that his brother was funny and sociable.

“People enjoyed being around him — just a very unique man,” he said. “It’s a really nice feeling knowing you’ve got a community like this that supports you.”