When Daniel Harris was shot and killed by North Carolina State Trooper Jermaine Saunders, anti-police activists were quick to assert that Harris died because law enforcement officers aren’t trained to handle deaf people.
They claimed that Harris was probably unaware of the Trooper behind him.
They asserted—without a shred of evidence, at all—that Trooper Saunders shot and killed Harris because he attempted to use sign language.
While we still don’t know much about what happened when Harris finally stopped on Seven Oaks Drive and confronted Trooper Saunders, the claim that Harris was unaware of Trooper Saunders and was merely peacefully driving home has been blown to shreds by confirmation that there was a high speed chase that hit speeds of 100 miles per hour, and that Trooper Saunders thought that Harris was such a threat to the public that he attempted to use both the Pursuit Intervention Technique (PIT maneuver) and a rolling roadblock to keep Harris from killing anyone.
No more than 7 minutes and 30 seconds elapsed on Aug. 18 from the time a state trooper began chasing Daniel Harris to the approximate moment the 29-year-old deaf man was struck with a fatal bullet from the officer’s gun.
But that short clip of radio traffic between Trooper Jermaine Saunders and his dispatcher offers the most detailed account yet of the 7-mile chase, which started on Interstate 485 when Saunders said he clocked Harris’ Volvo going 88 mph in a 70 mph zone. It ended in a north Charlotte neighborhood, with Harris lying dead in the street not far from his family home.
If accurate, Saunders’ running account of the daylight pursuit challenges the belief by Harris’ family that the dead man may not have heard or understood the trooper’s commands.
Based on the audio released Tuesday by state troopers, that explanation seems unlikely. In his radio dispatches, Saunders describes a chase down I-485 that reached speeds of up to 100 mph, the mile markers whipping by. He reports twice trying to stop Harris’ Volvo, first by strategically ramming the vehicle, then attempting a “rolling road block” later in the chase.
Neither works. Less than three minutes into the audio, Saunders says he tried to “PIT” Harris out on the exit ramp from I-485 onto Rocky River Road. That’s short for “Precision Immobilization Technique,” in which an officer forces the fleeing driver to spin sideways and stop.
A video from a nearby motorist acquired by WSOC Channel 9 appears to show the immediate aftermath of the maneuver, with the cars of Harris and Saunders both stopped and perpendicular to each other. Harris, though, backs up and speeds off, with Saunders jumping into his car and again giving chase.
Before Saunders can complete his rolling road block, according to the dispatches, Harris evades it by turning onto Seven Oaks Drive.
There, according to a neighborhood witness, another state trooper already is blocking Harris’ route to his home. Seven minutes and 17 seconds into the transmission, Saunders reports that Harris has stopped his car and tried to flee on foot.
“Have a jump and run, jump and run,” Saunders called in, his voice rising.
Twelve seconds go by.
“Shot fired, shot fired,” Saunders says. “Got one subject down. Go ahead and find me a medic.”
Part of the chase was captured on cell-phone video.
The camera captures Harris’s vehicle after it was spun out on the Rocky River Road exit off I-485. A man in uniform believed to be Trooper Saunders is at the driver’s side window of the spun out Volvo. While the video is too grainy for confirmation, Trooper Saunders’s stance is consistent with an officer who has drawn a weapon on a suspect. Instead of surrendering, Harris drove hs damaged vehicle away, and Trooper Saunders returned to his vehicle to continue the chase.
WSOC-TV provides more explicit details of the chase through radio communications from Saunders.
It begins with Saunders radioing in a driver speeding on the Interstate 485 inner loop near the Interstate 85 interchange. That driver is believed to be Daniel Harris.
“A blue Volvo. 485 inner-loop, Volvo, Colorado. 88 (mph) in a 70 (mph zone),” Saunders said.
“10-4. 88 (mph) in a 70 (mph zone),” dispatch said.
The trooper updates communications on his speed, as well as traffic conditions for the next 6 miles.
The driver, believed to be Harris has yet to stop his car.
At one point Saunders radios in that he’s going to try a PIT maneuver. A PIT maneuver is a technique used by police to stop a fleeing vehicle by using their cruiser to spin out the other car.
“I’m going to try to PIT him out,” said Saunders to dispatch.
Seconds later, Saunders confirms there has been a collision or accident.
“10-50, 10-50, 10-50,” yelled Saunders over the communications line. “10-50 inner loop near (mile marker) 36.”
Exit 36 leads to Rocky River Road. Channel 9 has exclusive viewer video showing what also appears to be Harris’s car spun out and perpendicular to the road. In this video, a trooper is standing outside the Volvo but the driver reverses and then drives away.
Radio communication confirms this encounter.
“He took off again. I’m going to try and PIT him out,” Saunders said.
“Back in motion. Traveling again. PIT failed,” dispatch said.
Saunders continues the pursuit, taking a right onto Rocky River Road.
Throughout the recording other troopers have been informing dispatch they are in route to assist Saunders. Saunders mentions another maneuver to stop Harris. But before the “rolling road block” could be executed Harris turned right onto Seven Oaks Drive, according to the recording.
Seconds after turning onto Seven Oaks Drive, Saunders radios in that Harris may be getting out of the car.
Approximately 15 seconds after that line of communication — a shots fired call.
“Shot fired. Shot fired,” Saunders said. “I got one subject down. Go ahead and find me a medic.”
Five minutes later, paramedics arrive at the scene.
“Medic 10-23,” dispatch said.
Dispatch then identifies the owner of the car after officials communicate the license plate number on the vehicle.
“1028 Colorado to Daniel K. Harris,” dispatch said.
Despite a claim made by a less-than-honest journalist in Charlotte, there are no known eyewitnesses to the shooting of Daniel Harris after this high-speed chase, and we don’t yet know if the shooting of Saunders will be judged lawful.
What we do now know for certain is that Daniel Harris was engaged in a high speed chase, was intentionally wrecked because he was such a danger to the public, and then took off a second time, only to be blocked from reaching his home by a second State Trooper who got ahead of him.
He was not unaware he was being pursued. He was not shot for using sign language. Those attempting to claim his disability as an excuse for his behavior are, quite frankly duplicitous jerks with their own political agendas.