Deaf Man Stabbed When Sign Language Mistaken for Gang Sign

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.

Am I the only one who thinks sign language is one of the most interesting languages to learn?

Image via Cindy Andrie

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