The siblings of a deaf man fatally shot by a North Carolina trooper following a traffic stop are questioning what role their brother's hearing impairment played in his death.
Daniel Harris' brother and sister insisted he was not armed when he was shot just outside his Charlotte home after being chased by a state trooper for seven miles.
They believed their brother's death was caused by a communications failure with the officer.
“If they had known the person was deaf, this wouldn’t have happened,” Sam Harris said.
Like their brother, Sam and his sister, Luci Gale, are both deaf and spoke through an interpreter.
According to authorities, North Carolina State Trooper Jermaine Saunders tried to pull Daniel Harris over for allegedly speeding along I-485 last Thursday at 6:14 pm.
Harris failed to stop, leading the trooper on a seven-mile chase that ended on the residential street where Harris lives.
Although details aren’t clear, police say “an encounter took place between the driver and the trooper causing a shot to be fired.” Harris died just steps from his front door.
“When I was told, honestly my heart just broke. I was in such shock. Why? Why did this happen?” Gale said. “Why would someone shoot Daniel? He was the sweetest man on Earth. It’s just impossible that it could have happened.”
Saunders is currently on administrative paid leave, which is routine following an officer-involved shooting.
The state bureau of investigation urged the public to withhold judgment while authorities investigate details and comb through video footage from dashboard and body cameras.
"Let us refrain from making assumptions or drawing conclusions prior to the internal and independent reviews,” it said in a statement.
Both Gale and Sam Harris described their brother, Daniel, as athletic, outgoing and kind. They also are certain he was unarmed.
“He had no weapon. I’ve known him since he was born. He was a harmless, harmless individual,” Gale said.
Her brother added: “How ironic is that, that he’s never touched one and he’s killed by one."
Their family hopes that Harris's death will prompt training for officers on how to communicate with deaf people.