After using sign language to communicate with a friend, a deaf North Carolina man was stabbed several times last week. Why? A passerby apparently mistook his gestures for gang signs.
Terrance Ervin Daniels, 45, suffered wounds to the upper body during the altercation in Burlington, N.C., according to ABC News. The suspect is 22-year-old Robert Jarell Neal, who allegedly saw Daniels and his friend, also deaf, walking down the street, and approached wielding a kitchen knife.
Although Neal mistook the sign language for gang signs, there’s no evidence to suggest that he’s actually involved with any gangs, ABC News reports. So as of now, it’s not clear why he attacked Daniels.
Following the incident, Daniels was flown by helicopter to the University of North Carolina trauma center for treatment. (He remains in stable condition.) Neal fled the scene, but was later arrested in Elon, N.C., Sgt. Mark Yancey of the Burlington Police Department told ABC News. At his court hearing Friday, Neal was charged with assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill — as well as a felony assault on a handicapped person. He did not enter a plea, and bond was set at $500,000.
Though this situation might seem like a bizarre and very troubling outlier, a strikingly similar scenario has occurred in the past. In 2011, two hearing-impaired Florida men were stabbed after their ASL conversation was mistaken for an exchange of gang signs.