San Diego Police used a Taser and pepper spray on a deaf man over a parking ticket on Aug. 21.
Tiara Arreloa, who works in a clothing store, told KGTV that the deaf man illegally parked in a loading zone to make a quick stop in her store to sell shoes.
“He couldn’t speak, so he was communicating via a legal pad we had. As he was writing something to ask us, he saw that he was going to get a ticket,” Arreloa recalled.
Arreloa said the man ran outside to talk to the female traffic enforcement officer who was giving him the ticket.
“Maybe because he could not speak and he was trying to communicate so he was making some muddled noises,” Arreloa told the news station. “So maybe she thought he was intoxicated.”
In about two minutes, the officer pepper-sprayed the deaf man in the face, according to Arreloa:
There were customers going in and everyone was really frightened. It got so bad, the water wasn’t helping, so we had to go to a restaurant and ask them for milk to neutralize the spice, the heat. Me and my co-workers were yelling “he is deaf! He is deaf!”
More police arrived on the scene, and used a taser on the deaf man.
“It ends up with three men on top of him,” Arreloa stated. “This poor man on the ground can’t even communicate, but they are forcing him down on the ground over a parking ticket.”
Paramedics came to the scene, and were able to communicate with the deaf man by using sign language.
According to the San Diego Police Department Police, a Taser was used on the deaf man whom they accused of slapping the arm of the traffic officer.
“He wasn’t touching her, his hands were just here. He was trying to talk to her, ” Arreloa countered.
Aline Smith, a spokeswoman with Deaf Community Services of San Diego, said:
The police really need some serious training and they need to learn how to become aware of the deaf community. They need to learn cultural norms of the deaf community and learn how to identify if a person is deaf or hearing. That way they know how to treat them when they are pulled over.
Doesn’t mean I would become aggressive, but maybe my facial expressions, just like people who can hear and can speak, they have different vocal tone. The deaf community has the same thing in their facial expression, so my face might have been frustrated or upset,” said Smith who added dealing with law enforcement can be especially intimidating.
Deaf people are afraid of the police. If police are behind me with the siren, oh, it’s extremely frightening for me. It’s important that people take the time and are patient in order to assess what’s really happening.