HEARD Police Brutality & Discrimination Against Deaf People (last updated Sept 2017)
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This list is by no means comprehensive. It was compiled by the all-volunteer organization Helping Educate to Advance the Rights of Deaf people (HEARD) over a span of several years. For more information or to donate to our efforts, please visit our website (www.behearddc.org) & follow us on Facebook (facebook.com/HEARDDC) & Twitter (@behearddc). Please contact us at info@behearddc.org for more information or press inquiries. Note: The toggle at the bottom allows you to see the Spanish translation, & the red highlight means that the incident was fatal.
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NameStateCounty or Police DepartmentYearViolence?Nature of IncidentInterpreter / Accommodation?DetailsLawsuit/OutcomeNotes
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Magdiel Sanchez OKOklahoma City Police Department2017YesShooting - FatalNoMore details forthcoming. Deaf Disabled Latinx man killed within moments of cops arriving to his and his father's home. Witnesses shouted to the cops that he could not hear them.Just occurred
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Terrence CrutcherOKTulsa PD2016YesShooting - FatalNoOn September 16, 2016, Terence Crutcher, a 40-year-old African-American man, was fatally shot by white police officer Betty Shelby in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He was unarmed during the encounter, in which he was standing near his vehicle in the middle of a street. Crutcher's sister, in a CNN interview revealed that he was hard of hearing and that he had a prosthetic eye. Photos show him always wearing dark glasses to protect his eyes.

The shooting led to protests in Tulsa. On September 22, the Tulsa County District Attorney charged Shelby with first-degree manslaughter and later the shooting was labeled a homicide.
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Daniel HarrisNCCharlotte (NC State Trooper)2016YesShooting - FatalNoOfficer alleges that Daniel Harris was speeding. The officer rammed Mr. Harris' car and tailed him home--which was a few minutes away. According to neighbors, he officer opened fire within seconds of Harris exiting car. Reports say the officer fired within seconds of arriving at the house. Details forthcoming.Jan 30, 2017, Mecklenburg Attorney General announced no charges to be filed against Trooper Jermaine Suanders.
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Darnell WickerKYLouisville Metro PD2016YesShooting - FatalNoThis 57 year old veteran was deaf in one ear and hard of hearing in the other ear. Police officers were called by his long term girlfriend's daughter to their home. One police officer was on the scene communicating with Mr. Wicker when two other officers pulled up. Body camera footage shows the two officers driving up, jumping out of their cruiser, approaching Mr. Wicker, one officer shouting, "drop it," and within one and a half seconds opened fire. Mr. Wicker died on the scene.Officers deemed "justified." Family still fighting in early 2017.
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Hannah CohenTNTSA (Memphis Shelby Co. Airport Authority)2016YesPhysical beatingNoThis young St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital cancer patient, was attempting to travel back home to Chatanooga, TN with her mother when she was told by TSA she needed additional screening. Only minutes later, Cohen, who is blind in one eye and deaf was in handcuffs on the ground with her head bloodied from a tackle to the ground by a TSA. According to Cohen's mother, her daughter became confused with instructions and became disoriented with TSA shouting instructions. Thereafter she was tackled.
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Randall WaddelTX
Weatherford police
2015YesShooting - FatalNoA police officer shot Waddel in the back as he tried to run out of a store to escape paramedics who previously took him to a pscyhiatric institution resulting in him losing everything. Waddel wad deaf and also had mental illness. He had a pocket knife. Here is video footage of him attempting to flee paramedics: goo.gl/uwGIB0
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HEARD-ACLU Submission No. 11 [Name Withheld]CAAlameda County (Pleasanton)2014NoOfficer refusal to communicate with Deaf driver & use of small child as "interpreter" NoA California Highway Patrol officer refused to communicate with Deaf driver. Instead, the officer talked to the driver's 10 year old child, who tried their best to "interpret." The parent-driver could not understand everything the child said and could not hear the officer talking. The officer refuse to write anything on paper as requested by the driver.
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HEARD-ACLU Submission No. 12 [Name Withheld]COChaffee County2014YesWrongful Arrest, Abuse & Impounding of Service DogsNoA Deaf homeless person went to a local church with his two service dogs. Staff at the church were giving him painreliever for chronich toothaches when a pastor saw his dogs and wanted him to leave. The Deaf person person trid to explain that these were service animals but the pastor called the police who similarly did not listen. Police officers cuffed the Deaf person, removed his service dogs and had them sent to the pound. The Deaf person began having a seizure as a result, so officers called first responders to transport the person by ambulance to the ER. On the ride to the ER, officers cuffed the Deaf person and put a hat over his face and such that he could barely breathe. The Deaf person was just trying to communicate with officers but they refused to take the time to listen. The Deaf person was given a ticket and kicked him out of town. Officers threated to arrest him if he refused to leave town.The person found someone to pay $60 to get his service dogs out of the pound. He had no money.
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Edward MillerFLVolusia County Sheriff2014YesShooting - FatalNoPlainclothes deputy shot a deaf man six times after the deputy "perceived a threat" when Miller "failed to obey" the deputy's commands. The man's son was present and informed the deputies that his father could not hear them prior to them opening fire.Updates forthcoming
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HEARD-ACLU Submission No. 10 [Name Withheld]ALCullman County2014YesAbuseNoDeaf driver was pulled over by an officer who "was so angry that he almost broke [the driver's] door and was going to draw a gun on me when [the driver] repeatly informed the officer that [the driver is] deaf." The officer became frustrated with the driver within minutes and kept their hand on their service weapon. The driver was fearful and could tell that the officer would "draw the gun at any time."
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HEARD-ACLU Submission No. 15 [Name Withheld]CAAlameda County2014YesOfficer frustrated with communication kept their hand on service weapon during a routine traffic stopNoDeaf driver was pulled over by an officer who "was so angry that he almost broke [the driver's] door and was going to draw a gun on me when [the driver] repeatly informed the officer that [the driver is] deaf." The officer became frustrated with the driver within minutes and kept their hand on their service weapon. The driver was fearful and could tell that the officer would "draw the gun at any time." The officer went back to his patrol car and after fifteen minutes returned with a ticket & forced me to sign it. I wanted to refuse because the officer did not explain the reason why he pulled me over.
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HEARD-ACLU Submission No. 17 [Name Withheld]TXHays County2014YesOfficer Refusal to Communicate with Deaf person, Use of family member as interpreter; Wrongful Arrest & Police BrutalityNo
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HEARD-ACLU Submission No. 18 [Name Withheld]WASpokane County Sheriff Department2014YesHeld at gunpoint & nearly hit by patrol carNoDeaf pedestrian was walking down the road when a sheriff's patrol car quickly sped in front of the pedestrian to cutt him off nearly hitting pedestrian's knee. The deputy got out of his patrol car with his gun drawn while speaking to the pedestrian who raised his hands. The pedestrian can speak but can not hear. The deputy used a hand guesture and the pedestrian read his lips that he wanted to see identification. Pedestrian handed identification to the deputy who was still pointing his weapon. The pedestrian reports being in fear for their life and keeping quiet and an eye on the depputy's gun.NoneThis pedestrian is a single parent of two sons. The pedestrian reports the following: "I don't trust Police Community and fear they would not understand about me being deaf. I avoid large crowded areas or cities ...and now they are killing people it makes me feel more insecured to be around police. Hopefully one day our justice system can change our police forces and train them to not use excessive force on us. . . . I don't want my son to be a victim. He is mixed-race, black and white, and I fear for my family and myself around police because what I see and have been through.
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Robert KimMOBridgeton PD2014YesTasered & beatenNoKim pulled over to fix a flat tire just before slipping into a diabetic episode. He was seated on the grass when a police officer arrived. Kim tried to make the officer aware that he was deaf, that he had trouble speaking, and that he was in diabetic shock. Instead of contacting paramedics, this officer and others beat and tasered Kim for failing to respond to their verbal orders. Doctors at the hospital where Kim was subsequently taken assessed his condition as life-threatening.Charges dropped against Kim.Lawsuit pending
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Jonothan MeisterCAHawthorne PD2014YesTaserd & beatenNoMeister was carrying his belongings from his friend's home when officers mistook him for a burglar, determined that his attempts to use sign language were aggressive, and began beating, tasering and choking him to the point of unconsciousness.Lawsuit pending
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Pearl PearsonOKOklahoma Highway Patrol2014YesPulled from car and beaten about face/head/chestNoVideo showed patrolmen brutally attacking Pearson within seconds of approaching his vehicle. Pearson, a 68 year old Deaf man, was attempting to indicate that he was deaf when he was beaten for nearly seven minutes. Immediately following Pearson’s assault, the troopers’ dashboard camera revealed officers cursing after they run a quick check of his license and realized that Pearson is deaf. The district attorney announced that the officers would not be charged for this attack & charged Pearson with "resisting arrest.” Pearson and his attorneys are in their second year of fighting this charge.Pearson's son is a police officer & he is fully aware of protocol and argues that he followed proper procudure and was attacked by officers when he was trying to indicate that he was deaf
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David UpdikeORGresham & Multnomah County PD2013UnknownNo interpreter with officers. Court provided interpreter several days later.Public defender requested an interprter and was laughed at , judge ordered ASL interpreter 3 days laterReleased, charges dropped after 8 days, lawsuit pending
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HEARD-ACLU Submission No. 5 [Name Withheld]KYLaurel County Sheriff2013YesBeaten & wrongfully imprisonedNoAfter the deaf person asked the deputy to read the deaf person's communication card, the officer ignored this request, then grabbed the person and threw them to the ground. He was beaten, taken to jail and charged with "resisting arrest, "endangerment of a police officer," and "assaulting a police officer" as related to the physical encounter. The person was wrongfully imprisoned and fought this charge for two years.
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HEARD-ACLU Submission No. 14 [Name Withheld]MAHampden2013YesAssaulted & wrongfully detainedNoAn officer asked this deaf person to share their version of events on an incident. As this person tried to share details, a second officer kept interjecting. This deaf person "sternly, but politely" told the officer that she was interjecting and not listening. The other officer responded but this person could not hear, "if I interrupt her I will be detained." The female officer again interjected and changed this deaf person's story. When the deaf person tried to speak again, the officer threw the deaf person against the house and detained them.
This deaf person did not have contact with a lawyer or have water for nine hours.
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Doug BahlMNSt. Paul PD2013YesBeatenNorequested interpreter, PD refused to interview due to request. Beat Bahl because he tried to communicate via paper & penLawsuit: $20k damaged & $73k in legal fees. Bahl passed away in January 2014 from cancer.St. Paul retrained its PD due to this incident & ensuing litigation
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HEARD-ACLU Submission No. 9 [Name Withheld]FLPasco County2013YesRestrained by officersNoDeaf person was restrained by the three police officers for using pen and paper I to request n ASL interpreter. Officers refused this refused all communication. Unable to find legal counsel for this case
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HEARD-ACLU Submission No. 3 [Name Withheld]MIBary & Calhoun Counties1999 - 2013YesVerbal & physical abuseNoRequests for interpreters are denied by officers and officers demand that complinant "read, write and speak." Physical abuse and threats involve, "rough manhandling because I can't hear or lip read from behind, or when at night and they point a flashlight in my face refusing to acknowledge that I cannot hear." They also threaten to arrest me.
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Lashonn WhiteWATacoma PD2012YesTaserNoWhite called 911 via video relay service to request assistance with an abusive domestic partner. When officers arrived, White ran toward them for assistance. They tased, beat and arrested her for "ignoring the command" to stop running toward them. Neighbors claim that they informed the officers that she was deaf & dispatch claims to have informed officers that the complainant was deaf.White was released w/o charge. An internal investigation determined that the officers were "justified" in their use of force. Lawsuit against the city settled.
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HEARD-ACLU Submission No. 2 [Name Withheld]IL Carterville PD2012YesUnlawful removal of child from deaf parent without provision of interpretersNoAn angry teenager called 911 to their home where they lived with one parent who happened to be deaf. The parent later explained that the teenager was upset that they could not stay at a friend's house longer, so they called the police.The PD admits that the parent was never consulted about the incident because she requested a qualified interpreter but they refused to provide an interpreter. The officer even asked for advisement of the chief of the department "to ask what to do about the circumstances surrounding the difficulties in communicating with [the deaf parent] and [parent's] demands of a Signed English Translator. " [The chief] stated " that we would not get a Signed English Translator and to only attempt to make effective communication through writing our questions and responses on paper. He also stated if it were okay with [child] an arrest would not be made on [parent] for Domestic Battery , due to [parent's] failure to effectively communicate with law enforcement on the scene." The hearing teenager was taken by the police officers and given to the hearing parent who did not have custody of the child. The deaf parent never provided a statement to the police and had no idea where their child was taken.
This person was denied an interpreter by the police. This person only communicates though sign language and has difficulty writing English and speech reading. After going through the legal system, largely without an interpreter--even attempting to communicate with the public defender in writing and not understanding what was happening in court--this person pled guilty to charges they did not understand and lost custody of their child.Other issues:

1. The Williamson County Public Defender Service did not provide an interpreter to this parent
2. The Williamson County Court also failed to provide interpreters at at least one hearing

3.The Ill. Dept. of Children & Family Services sent a letter to the parent stating that after they completed their investigation into other charges against her, they found the charges were "unfounded." This letter also states that the recipient has exactly 10 days to request a report that states that the report against the recipient was falsely filed. For an individual who does not speak English, this is not accessible. The parent could not understand this letter because the parent uses sign language to communicate.
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Jacob Cody PlemmonsNCBuncomb County Sherriff's Office2012YesShootingNoPlemmons, a 17 year old deaf youth who officers had stopped several minutes before wrote back and forth with officers to communicate that he had taken his mother's car and was lost. Officers wrote back to Plemmons that he was free to go. When he drove away, officers quickly turned around and pursued him. Witnesses and the Deaf teenager state that officers did not have their lights on and that they were chasing him. The teenager says he was confused because they told him he was free to go home. Plemmons says he raised his hands and shook his head yes, trying to put vehicle in park, but that before he got the vehicle in park the officers opened fire, striking him five times.Police were found not at fault & the Plemmons is physically disabled as a result of the incident. The family is still seeking redress.
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Philip WolfeWAPortland PD2012NoPD failure to provide interpreter led to violence for deaf domestic violence survivor.NoOn two separate calls with 911, the caller requested ASL interpreters, but officers failed to provide interpreters. Instead, an officer with basic ASL abilities came to the scene. Consequently, officers could not effectively communicate with Wolfe and he was attacked a second time by the same domestic assailant after officers left the scene.In July 2013, federal judge ordered city of Portland to pay $51,500 for failing to provide communication access in violation of the ADA.District court judge also ordered the city to adopt the U.S. Justice Department's model policy on how to communicate with people who are deaf or hard of hearing
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HEARD-ACLU Submission No. 4 [Name Withheld]MIOakland & Wayne Counties2010 - 2012YesDangerous encounters during routine traffic stopsNoOfficers pull over the deaf driver at night with a flashlight directly in the driver's eyes & with his hand on his gun. The deaf driver believes the officer was upset because the driver did not to respond to verbal commands that the driver can not hear (or see with the flaghlight directly in the driver's eyes). Officers also demand that the driver read lips and argued with the driver who could pick up on some of the words the officer speaks.
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HEARD-ACLU Submission No. 6 [Name Withheld]WASnohomish County2011YesBeating & unlawful arrest with to access to telecommNoThis deaf parent came to provide information to an officer who had pulled their child over. The child could not find the registration and asked the officer if it was okay if the child's deaf parent came to provide the information. The officer agreed. When the parent arrived, the officer shined a light in the deaf parent's eyes and grew angry when the parent did not repsond to verbal commands that the parent could not hear or see. The officer used his flashlight to break the window of the parent's car, then smashed out the parents front teeth with the flashlight then dragged the parent out of of the truck to the ground and took him to jail. The parent is still fighting the charges several years later. This parent and their deaf spouse experience PTSD as a result of this incident because they live in perpetual fear of abuse by officers when they leave their homes.This parent was not provided a videophone to make phone calls to family or attorneys. The parent's case was postponed for many months because interpreters were not being provided by the court. The attorney had to file motions for interpreters and a motion to dismiss the case as a violatio of the Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial.
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John T. WilliamsWASeattle PD2010YESShooting - FatalNoNative American woodcarver was shot several times in the back and side by an officer for "refusing to turn and face him" while he was walking down a busy street. Williams had in his possession a small, legal, closed carving knife as shown in evidence photos taken minutes after his murder.Shooting not justified, officer resigned, not charged. Lawsuit filed, $1.5 million paid to family
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Alejandro ReaCASecurity Guard2010Yestackled, put in headlockNotried to sign to guard who has him in headlock, brother also tries to sign/communicateGuard suspended by store, man in prison awaiting trial, no further infoAlejandro is clearly tapping the guard's arm as he turns purple and trying to sign. He struggles after his tapping & signing go unnoticed
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Jacob CowieFLTampa PD2010YesPunched, kicked & taseredNoThree undercover police officers and one uniformed police officer attacked and beat Jacob Cowie when he was attempting to prevent a friend from being ejected from a nightclub. Video captures officers throwing Cowie to the ground, using a Taser on him, and repeatedly punching and kicking him. Cowie was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct. The charge was subsequently dropped.

The disorderly conduct charge against Cowie was dropped and Cowie sued the city of Tampa and police officers alleging that the officers used excessive force. Cowie stated that when the officers intervened, he was unable to hear whether the officers had identified themselves. Cowie's attorney claims and video confirms that the first officer to approach Cowie was dressed in jeans and a hoodie and had party beads around his neck. Prior to trial the case was settled, with the city of Tampa agreeing to pay Cowie $165,000.
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Esther ValdezTXAustin PD2009NoUnlawful arrest & detentionNoValdez was arrested in 2009 for "resisting arrest" after failing to hear an officer yelling at her to stop walking down a sidewalk along a busy street in North Austin.Charged w/ resisting arrest. Charges dropped. PD settled Law suit ($500 + legal fees)
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Name WitheldTXMcLennan County Sherriff's & Bruceville - Eddy PD2009YesTaseredNoPolice did not discover he was deafInvestigation pendingCall about aggressive dogs. Dogs found at man's house. Dog attacks. Dog shot. Elderly Man runs from house, ordered to freeze. Does not hear & is tased
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Tony LoveALMobile PD2009YesPepper Sprayed & tasedNoPolice did not know he was deaf, did not give him a chance to explain until AFTER tasing him. Arrested him for disorderly conduct. Magestrate threw it out.Suit filed for $2MWent into loo. Remained for 1 hr. Store called PD. PD broke door open, tried to keep door closed, confused. PD saw "weapon" (umbrella) and pepper sprayed then Tased him. ID - mental capacity of a 10 yr old
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Stephen PylesMDAnne Arundel County PD2008YesWrestled to groundNoNot offered, man tried to give officer NOTE and officer tackled himLawsuit settledPyles' house had been burglurized and he had CALLED for help
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HEARD-ACLU Submission No. 1 [Name Withheld]OHUnion (County)2008NoOfficer refusal to communicate with deaf driverNoDeaf driver attempted to have an exchange with the officer about the ticket he was being given but the officer refused to communicate in any manner with the deaf driver.
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Donnell WilliamsKAWichita PD2007YesTasedNoTased immeidately after PD broke into home, Donnell yelled "I can't hear" at PD before being tasedPD apologized, unknown if lawsuit followedWas in bathroom, wearing a TOWEL, still wet from tub
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HEARD-ACLU Submission No. 8 [Name Withheld]ILCook County2007NoOfficer refused to communicate with deaf driverNoDeaf driver attempted to communicate with officer that driver was deaf. Officer laughed at driver and told the driver to read his lips.Driver contacted the state police service to file a complaint but could not because "the paperwork was too complicated."
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HEARD-ACLU Submission No. 7 [Name Withheld]GADecatur2007NoDetails not providedDetails not provided details not provided
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Dan TessienCAModesto PD2006YesShot w/ lead beanbagsNoPolice did not know he was deaf, did not give him a chance to explainLawsuit settled - PD paid $40kMistaken identity, PD yelled to exit car (from their cars) he did not respond. Rear window shot out w/ beanbag. Lept from car, shot 8 times
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Jason TozierWAPortland PDYesPunched & kicked miltiple timesNoPD laughed when interpreter requested. Refused to interviewNo Lawsuit PendingThe paperwork for this event missing. All charges against Jason were dropped.
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Eric PutnamVT2003NoNoOfficers allowed lip reading & note passingBreathalizer test excluded, case not dismissedOfficers acted in good faith, but failed to realize limitations of lip reading & Engligh notes
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Errol ShawMIDetroit PD2000YesShooting - FatalNoWitnesses informed PD he was deaf, but were ignored. According to officers, Shaw was "wielding a rake."Officer charged w/ manslaughter
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Sanford DiamondCALA PD1999YesForced to ground, face, arms & shoulders injuredNoRecognized as hearing impaired by officers, but they did not attempt to see if he needed an interpreterLawsuit settledDiamond known hearing impaired individual by police. No care taken. Elderly and injured by rough treatment
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William OdomNYRochester Police Department1997YesShooting - FatalNoPolice were called to the scene of a dispute. Odom reportedly had a knife. Police were aware that he was Deaf. Police claim that he lunged at them and they had to shoot him. The officers fatally shot Odom.



That tragedy sparked protests by Rochester's Deaf community & deaf-centered, deaf-led training for RPD.
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