Deaf driver’s shooting death by trooper under investigation

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — The North Carolina Highway Patrol is urging people not to jump to conclusions as state agents investigate how a deaf driver with a history of minor offenses ended up dead after leading a trooper on a 10-mile chase.

The family of Daniel Kevin Harris said he was unarmed and suggested the sequence of events last week was a tragic misunderstanding — the type the state’s training manual warns troopers to avoid when dealing with the hearing impaired.  

The investigation into the shooting is ongoing, Secretary Frank Perry of the state Department of Public Safety said in a news release. “Let us all refrain from making assumptions or drawing conclusions prior to the internal and independent reviews” by the patrol, the State Bureau of Investigation and the district attorney, said Perry, whose agency oversees the Highway Patrol.

Authorities haven’t said why Trooper Jermaine Saunders fired, and a review of public records shows a few traffic charges against Harris from other states, including damaging his employer’s vehicle with his own car after he was fired last year, according to a Denver police report.

Last Thursday’s incident started when Harris did not pull over as Saunders turned on his blue lights on Interstate 485 near Charlotte about 6:15 p.m. and ended after Harris drove down several miles of surface streets to his home. The trooper was trying to pull him over for speeding.

North Carolina’s Basic Law Enforcement Training manual has a section that deals with interacting with deaf drivers. “Keep your eyes on the person’s hands,” it reads. “Deaf people have been stopped by an officer and then shot and killed because the deaf person made a quick move for a pen and pad in his or her coat pocket or glove compartment. These unfortunate incidents can be prevented by mutual awareness which overcomes the lack of communication.”

The victim’s family said Harris likely didn’t understand the officer’s commands. Harris’ family said they want to make sure the incident is investigated thoroughly and also want the state to make changes so officers will immediately know they are dealing with a hearing-impaired driver.

Authorities have released little information about the investigation, including any possible body camera or dashboard camera footage or whether a gun was found near Harris. Saunders has been placed on administrative leave. A spokeswoman for the SBI didn’t respond Tuesday to questions, including whether authorities have interviewed Saunders yet.

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

“You don’t see deafness the way that you see the difference in race. We need to change the system,” Harris’ brother Sam said to reporters using sign language and an interpreter after a Monday night vigil.

Sam Harris is deaf, and so are his brother’s parents and other family members. They signed with each other as an Associated Press reporter knocked on their door Tuesday. Sam Harris didn’t want to talk Tuesday but wrote a note leaving an email address for an interpreter, who said no interviews could be conducted that day.

A review by The Associated Press shows Harris had been charged with traffic offenses and other misdemeanors in three states. In 2015, Denver police were called to Shafer Commercial Seating after Harris was fired. Officials at the chair and tabletop manufacturer said Harris “got very mad and stormed out” after being fired, hitting an employer’s vehicle with his own car causing light damage, according to a police report.

A warrant was issued, but never served, but it wasn’t clear why. No one answered the phone at Shafer Commercial Seating after hours Tuesday. Also in Denver, Harris had traffic stops in 2015 and 2008. The five misdemeanor charges filed in 2008 included obstructing a peace officer; all those charges were dropped. It’s unclear what happened with the 2015 charge.

He was arrested twice in Florida in 2010 — once for petit theft and once for speeding. A charge of resisting an officer was dropped. That year he pleaded no-contest to petit theft and guilty to speeding.

And in December of that same year, he pleaded guilty to interfering with or resisting police in Watertown, Connecticut. 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.

The NAD supports intensive training for law enforcement officers on dealing with people who are deaf or hard-of-hearing and says some officers should be trained to communicate in American Sign Language.

Harris was white, and authorities haven’t revealed Saunders’ race.

Waggoner reported from Raleigh, North Carolina. Associated Press writers Jim Anderson in Denver; Curt Anderson in Miami; and David Collins in Hartford, Connecticut, contributed to this report.

7 thoughts on “Deaf driver’s shooting death by trooper under investigation

  1. Stop speeding or I’ll

    Pew pew pew
    There ! That’ll stop you from ever going 5 over ever again

    My gestapo job is complete
    Please give me my paid 3 week vacation
    And I’ll be back for my promotion and pay raise
    As the cop says ” it’s not my fault he can’t hear my orders to follow”
    And I get to shoot anyone I want for whatever reason , that’s why I’m a member of this unionized gang

  2. “… also want the state to make changes so officers will immediately know they are dealing with a hearing-impaired driver.”

    That info should come up on the computer when they run the plates. Wouldn’t it be on his driver’s license? One would think so.

    “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…”


    Support your local MURDERERS, MORONS!!!!!

    1. As a concealed carrier, EVERY time I have been accosted by the policy enforcers, they knew before the means of conveyance came to a complete stop that they were going to treat me differently than the average sheep about to be sheared. There is NO reason that a person’s physical limitations are not immediately identifiable, except that those limitations do not constitute a supposed threat to the enforcer, and are therefore not important to those who have no regard for the life of Mankind.

      There are so many things amiss with this report that I may have to do another response tomorrow. (Tonight I am still dealing with the tornado issue in Indiana and do not have enough time to deal with it responsibly).

      1. I just find it to be such a tribute to their brainwashing/communist indoctrination. To have a family member MURDERED by ICM enforcers, and then to offer to pay for the ‘privilege’.

        This kind will willingly (gratefully, even) hop aboard the FEMA buses. They have little to no chance of surviving the coming sh#tstorm.

        The commies know how to fix stupid.

        Hope your storm wasn’t too destructive in your immediate neighborhood, Darzak.

  3. This man was murdered by the Gestapo. They are quick to act and they get away with murder all the time. BTW: dash and body cam footage is not public info in NC. They passed a law saying the even with a court order the Gestapo do not have to release the footage. I live in NC, total ass wipes for cops, and elected people

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