Were deaf man's rights violated? - FOX 26 News | MyFoxHouston

Were deaf man's rights violated?

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HOUSTON (FOX 26) -

"It's like I'm nothing; it's just that simple.  I feel like I'm nothing," Andy Scofield said through a sign language interpreter.

Why would Scofield, a fourth generation deaf person, feel that way?  He said it's because of what happened when he and his three children took their deaf dog, Glacier, for a walk.

The children's mother is also deaf, but all three kids can hear.

"I was very excited because I felt like we were going to go out on a family walk," Scofield said. "You know, walk our dogs together."

While walking down the street, the family said a black dog came running towards them.

"I see a black lab coming so I tell my sister, ‘Get my dad'," said 13-year-old Syrus Scofield, Andy's son.

The kids get their dad's attention as they see two women and a man running towards them.

"I was pointing to the dog saying he needs to have a leash, he needs to have a leash on this dog," said Scofield.

According to Scofield and his kids, the black lab's owner initiated a fight.

"He tried to throw a punch at my dad, he kind of fell down my dad thought it was a good opportunity so he got on top of him saying I don't want to fight," Syrus Scofield said.

"I put my hands in the air and said I don't want to fight, I don't want to fight and when I went to look away, obviously concerned about my kids and the dog, he punched me in the nose," Scofield said.

Scofield was bleeding profusely.  It was all over his clothes. The family called 911.

"I was telling the ambulance that I wanted an interpreter and they said you need to wait till the police show up, I said OK," Scofield said.
When a Precinct 4 deputy constable showed up the deaf father said he repeatedly asked for an interpreter.

"He really needed an interpreter," Scofield's son Syrus said.  "He asked the cop multiple times I need an interpreter, ok ok he kept saying that ok we'll get you one."

"I was sitting in the ambulance bleeding still and the police officer walked around and I tried to explain and he was not listening to anything I had to say," Scofield said.

Scofield and the Precinct 4 deputy constable agree on one thing.

The officer used Andy's 13-year-old son as an interpreter.

"I was trying to explain to him my son is only 13-years-old, he can't interpret, I need an interpreter," said Scofield.

Scofield said the deputy constable took a statement from the other man who said Scofield initiated the fight not him.

"I kept telling him interpreter, interpreter this is the sign I said it repeatedly," said Scofield.

Instead of getting Scofield an interpreter, the deputy constable left.  He took no pictures, collected no evidence and didn't even bother to file a report.

For that Precinct 4 Chief Mark Herman said the deputy constable will be disciplined.

But the chief insists using Scofield's 13-year-old son to interpret meets Department of Justice guidelines.

Using family and friends is a common practice but that's a no, no said Deitra Stewart, a communication compliance specialist.

"You look at the legal definition, federal definition family members and friends would immediately be disqualified because you can not remain impartial," Stewart said.
When a neighbor who works in law enforcement heard about Scofield's plight he complained to Precinct 4.

So the next day another deputy constable shows up.

"I asked for an interpreter and they said no we're just taking pictures, you don't need one," Scofield said.

Scofield said it was nothing more than a replay of the day before.

The officer used the deaf man's 13-year-old son to interpret, then took a statement from the other dog owner who said Scofield started the fight not him.

The constable's office told us and Scofield the DA's office refused to file charges calling it a case of mutual combat.

"And I kept telling them how can you reject it without hearing anything I have to say," Scofield said.

Scofield said he asked the DA's office for an interpreter but got no answer.

The DA's office told us Scofield's case is still under review.

As for his request for an interpreter, the DA's office said it's up to law enforcement to get statements, not them.

Both county agencies question why Scofield doesn't just write his statement.

A misconception the deaf constantly encounter.

"Writing it down is another issue because sign language is not English so for most people you're asking them to write a foreign language," Stewart said.

"My kids were there they witnessed this whole thing happen and now my kids are wondering what is the law going to do for them, Scofield said.

The National Association for the Deaf, which said it's providing legal representation for Scofield, told Fox 26 Investigates, "It is unacceptable for law enforcement officers to communicate only with some people and ignore those who are deaf because their method of communication is different such as through the use of American Sign Language."

"When the police come even if a husband beats up a wife but they can communicate with the husband they get the story from that person and not the victim," Stewart said. "It's an on-going issue."

Being deaf, Scofield said doesn't mean you don't matter.

"I've heard so many stories from deaf people and that's why I want this to be loud to shake it up because we're people too," Scofield said.

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