BY KAREN WEBB
I have been angry at injustice a lot in my life, but I am not sure I have ever been as angry as I was watching the video of the arrest of a deaf man for a hit-and-run.
To begin with, the hit-and-run didn’t hurt anyone. He backed into another car; he did not run down a pedestrian in the street. In the video you can’t see what is happening, but you can hear it – which is more than the man the police are brutalizing could do because he is deaf.
I recall being on a trip with a young deaf man many years ago when we stopped at about midnight in Dallas at a service station. My friend went around back of the service station to go to the restroom. I started pumping gas when I heard a lot of yelling going on. I came around the corner just in time to stop about six young men from getting out of car and yelling all kinds of obscenities at my friend, who was just going in the restroom and could not have heard a word. The men were asking for directions and thought he was ignoring them. I told them that my friend is deaf and he is not from Dallas. That night my friend could have died.
I am not sure if I have ever met Pearl Pearson and it has been a long time since I have been active with regards to the deaf and I have never been a paid or licensed interpreter, but I remember one thing really well: Standing, in the dark, yelling at a deaf person who can’t see well-enough to lip-read because you are where he can’t see your mouth and expecting him to respond is useless.
I was in tears watching this and listening to the police scream at him to roll down the window, to get out of the car, to roll over on his stomach and to give them his only means of communicating, his hands.
Insisting a deaf person give you his hands so you can cuff them behind his back is exactly the same as stuffing a sock into District Attorney David Prater’s mouth and insisting he tell you what happened.
A deaf man on his stomach being beaten for not doing what he is told? A deaf man being charged with resisting arrest for attempting to communicate the only way he knows how? Prater is going to prosecute the deaf man?
I can kind of understand the viewpoint of the police officers, but I do not understand the actions of Prater.
“I wish every law enforcement agency had dash cam because it tells the rest of the story. No matter what the story is [the video] tells the truth.” Prater said. “I relied on it greatly in this case in determining what to do.”
Oh, good – Prater should rely on something because he has the common sense of an average toothpick and less compassion than an angry wolverine.
The video tells the whole truth except for the part about Pearson being deaf. I encourage you to listen to the tape again and then imagine how it was for the man who couldn’t hear any of it. His struggling was to try to communicate.
“You have to comply with law enforcement.” Prater said. “They have to see your hands. Your hands can kill someone. That’s what you grab something with. That’s what you punch people with. That’s what you stab people with. That’s what you shoot people with – your hands.”
That’s what he talks with – his hands, you imbecile.
I am so pleased I didn’t vote for Prater because charging a citizen with resisting arrest for not complying with orders he can’t hear, while police are handcuffing his only means of communication, makes Prater way too stupid for office.
Whatever happened to the idea of extenuating circumstances, you complete idiotic excuse of a person supposedly interested in justice? Yes, he wasn’t complying because he could not hear what the orders were.
“Those who advocate for the disabled, I understand that. But you also need to understand the other side of it. Mr. Pearson is very fortunate to be alive today and that’s because of his action,” Prater said. “This was handled the very best it could have been handled by the highway patrol and the officers involved.”
Is he serious? I think he is. He is saying: pay attention all of you disabled people out there and particularly those who are deaf – in Oklahoma we expect the deaf to comply with instructions given in the dark, not face to face where it might be possible to lip-read, even if you are on your stomach with your face in the dirt. Your handicap means zilch, in Oklahoma.
When the guy giving the orders says, “give me your only means of communication so I can make it as difficult as possible for you to communicate, even if you can’t hear the instructions, you must comply.” If you don’t we will charge you with resisting.
I don’t agree they did it the best they could because he has two black eyes and I don’t understand why that was necessary, but I understand their frustration.
The person not handling the situation the best he can is David Prater. And telling the deaf that they must comply with what they can’t hear or lip-read and threatening them with arrest and incarceration is incredibly callous.
Let’s make this fair and give David Prater a lesson in compassion. I suggest that we allow him to walk a little in the other guy’s shoes. When this comes to trial and I hope it does, I suggest David Prater handle this one in person and that we insist he do it with a sock stuffed in his mouth so he has to use only his hands to communicate.
– Karen Webb lives in Moore, OK and is a frequent contributor to The Oklahoma Observer