Family speaks out after deaf driver shot and killed by NC trooper
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — 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 said 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 Monday 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 Monday.
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 said or otherwise communicated, or whether the trooper knew Harris was deaf.
The trooper was placed on administrative leave after the shooting as is usual, 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.
CNN sent emails Tuesday with further questions seeking clarification about the matter, but officials said to protect the integrity of an ongoing investigation, they could not comment.
Baker passed along a statement from Secretary Frank L. Perry of the North Carolina Department of Public Safety.
“Any loss of life regardless of the circumstances is truly a tragic and sad event for all involved,” he said. “Let us all refrain from making assumptions or drawing conclusions prior to the internal and independent reviews. ”
The Mecklenburg County District Attorney’s Office said it will evaluate the case after law enforcement finishes its investigation.
Neighbor says he heard gunshot
A neighbor, Mark Barringer, told CNN affiliate WBTV 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 Monday’s vigil. Flowers and written messages lined a sidewalk.
A page on the crowdfunding site YouCaring.com is raising money for what the family said 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 said.
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.”