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Sign Language Mistaken for Gang Signs
January 18, 2013 at 11:01 AM

Deaf Man Stabbed When Sign Language Mistaken for Gang Sign

Posted by Janelle Harris

Sign languageRemember the last time you saw two deaf people engaging in a conversation with sign language and wondered, even maybe feared, that they were flashing each other a series of gang signs instead of, say, talking about where they were going to stop for dinner or debating the diversity of the presidential cabinet?

Never you say? Come on. Not even once?

Well then, that confirms even more that last week’s attack on a deaf man in Burlington, N.C., was completely and totally senseless. While Terrance Ervin Daniels was minding his own business, walking down the street signing to a deaf friend, he was attacked and stabbed several times in the upper body by a completely random bystander who believed the two men were engaging in cryptic, gang-related gesticulations.

I just ran through the handful of words and phrases I’ve managed to remember from a class I took in college. Pretty un-sinister stuff.

As if walking around the streets with a kitchen knife at the ready against gang crime wasn’t enough, the assailant, 22-year-old Robert Jarell Neal, has evidently never been a member of a gang himself or ever had a run-in with one to retaliate against. So police are still baffled why he attacked 45-year-old Daniels, who is in stable condition after being air lifted to the trauma center at the University of North Carolina.

They weren’t at liberty to say whether the suspect was under the influence of something or another—drugs, alcohol, maybe both—when he morphed from concerned citizen to crazy psycho. But it is clear that he knew he did something wrong, since he fled the scene. He was later arrested for assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill.

Hopefully, Daniels will make a full recovery but Neal’s display crazy is just a sign of the times.

Do you think if people were more knowledgable and accepting of others, things like this could be avoided?


  • stormcris
    January 18, 2013 at 11:07 AM

    For the most part yes

  • gammie
    by gammie
    January 18, 2013 at 11:14 AM

    Its not the first time this has happen.

    Show how stupid people are, killing someone for a hand sign.

  • jehosoba84
    January 18, 2013 at 11:16 AM

     I think that if the majority of the population weren't so damned ignorant of the ways of others we wouldn't have miscommunications like this.  (i realize misscommunications is a bad word for this, but i'm not running on all cylinders right now.)

  • furbabymum
    January 18, 2013 at 1:27 PM

     Ha. People be crazy man.

  • Clairwil
    January 18, 2013 at 2:12 PM

    The possibility that someone is deaf doesn't register with many people.

    I remember a story, I think it was last year, about a policeman who shot a man because the man didn't respond to the policeman's verbal command to stop.

  • LindaClement
    January 18, 2013 at 5:39 PM

    I think that if people were not stupid, gullible and incapable of thinking beyond the ends of their own eyelashes, things like this could be avoided.

  • nuclear_sugar
    January 18, 2013 at 5:45 PM
    Jesus Christ. Burlington is less than 2 hours from Wilson, NC, where the NC School for the Deaf is located. There are huge populations of deaf and hard-of-hearing citizens all around this area. That man had to have been high as hell, crazy as hell, or lying like hell about why he did it.

    This effing state, man. As one who is fluent in ASL with strong ties to the deaf community, this just makes me so mad.
  • IntactivistMama
    January 18, 2013 at 8:33 PM
    Should be attempted murder!
  • wickedfiress
    January 18, 2013 at 8:47 PM
    Gang signs? Seriously?
  • MusicCandy60
    January 18, 2013 at 8:58 PM

    Definitely Yes, 

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