No Charges for Police Officer Who Shot and Killed Deaf Man

February 1, 2017

 

The police officer who shot and killed Deaf man Daniel Harris on August 18 after a high-speed car chase in North Carolina will not be charged with anything. The family of Daniel released a statement saying they were very disappointed with the decision. 

The Mecklenburg County District Attorney concluded that the shooting was lawful because State Highway Patrol Trooper Jermaine Saunders believed that Daniel posed an imminent threat to his life. The report said after a high-speed chase and two failed PIT stops and gunpoint confrontations, Daniel still drove his Volvo, even when the tires was down to the rims. When he finally stopped at a residential street (right by his family home), the officer said Daniel charged at him holding a metal object in his left hand (later identified as a keychain ring with a carabineer). Here is an image of the officer describing how Daniel held it. 

The officer said he didn’t know what Daniel was holding, only had “seconds” to react, backed away, and shot at him in the chest once when he was two to four feet away from him, killing him. He said they made eye contact. The officer said he called a medic and tried to keep him awake, but that he was gasping. 

The officer did not have a Taser with him at the time, because his supervisor had it (it was because of a previous incident/investigation that required the Taser to be handed over, but the trooper did not meet with him to pick it up before staring his shift). 

The report said that Daniel being Deaf had nothing to do with the shooting, even though the report cited multiple instances where the officer made verbal commands. In the interview with the officer, there was no specific questions on his being deaf or if the officer had any training in being able to interact with deaf people. 

The report published previously private and graphic details about Daniel Harris’ mental health — in which the Harris family’s lawyer objected to, saying they were not asked permission. 

It said Daniel might have been suffering from a mental health crisis. It cited a previous arrest in 2015 when he tried to get away from a Kansas police officer. A mental health assessment was ordered — and it revealed that Daniel was possibly having hallucinations or thoughts of hurting himself or others, and had multiple psycharitic hospitalizations in the past. The DA said Daniel might have been suffering from some sort of “mental impairment.” An autopsy of his body concluded he was not under the influence of any drug or narcotic. [http://bit.ly/2dxSfPd]

Trooper Saunders was not wearing a body camera and there was no dash-cam on the police car, but there are pictures of the scenes and a previously released cellphone video of a confrontation between the trooper and Daniel off an interstate exit that was released on local news [Link is here: http://on.wsoctv.com/2bKIRat] There are several witnesses’ accounts — most of them agreeing with the officer’s statements. There was one witness (Witness #4) that gave a different account — he said that at the end of the chase, he saw Daniel walking away from the car, giving the officer a strange look, then raised his hands and was shot more than 12-15 feet away. But this witness’ report was discredited by the DA because several details was inconsistent with the crime scene and forensic evidence. 

Daniel’s family said the report raises more questions than answers, saying that prior to the report, the officer told two other people he couldn’t see what was in Daniel’s hand. They also asked why the officer did not ask for his Taser back before starting his shift and objected to the DA discrediting Witness #4. They said the statement of saying “there is no evidence that Harris being deaf played any role in the incident” raises a red flag because there is an extreme disconnect between the Deaf community and law enforcement, and that police must get appropriate training. The family said they would continue to fight for justice for Daniel. 

The family attorney said the family is still grieving and are still seeking answers on why the officer would use deadly force. He said he was extremely disappointed with the release of private medical information, said that it was an attempt to justify the officer’s case, and that it has no relevance. 

It is a very sad and tragic incident. I’ve included links below for more information. 

DA Report: http://www.charmeckda.com/news/013017_1.pdf
Harris Family Statement: http://bit.ly/2kWfzHP
News story: http://www.usatoday.com/.../da-no-charges-state.../97246704/

 

 

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