A deaf man was killed by a Florida deputy after an altercation at a towing yard went terribly wrong. Two deputies, undercover and in plain clothes, heard an argument occurring outside Fryer’s Towing Company on Saturday afternoon in Daytona Beach. On approach, the deputies saw 52-year-old Edward P. Miller, deaf from birth, with a gun. When he failed to comply with the orders of the cops, they shot him dead.
Reports the Huffington Post: “Volusia County Sheriff Ben Johnson said Miller was ‘brandishing a firearm’ outside when deputy Joel Hernandez and another unnamed deputy arrived. Hernandez, 35, fired his service weapon, killing Miller, because he perceived a threat, a sheriff’s office spokesman said.”
Miller and his son, Ed Miller Jr., had just left the towing yard and were sitting outside – Miller Sr. in a silver SUV jeep and his son in a red pickup they had just retrieved – when plainclothes detectives, who were there on an unrelated incident, heard some sort of squabble. It’s unclear if the Millers were arguing with one another, arguing with towing employees or just yelling across the vehicles, but the deputies, approaching the jeep SUV, “perceived a threat” and ordered the senior Miller to disarm and step out of the vehicle.
When he failed to do so, deputy Hernandez opened fire, shooting six times through the door and windshield of the SUV, killing the deaf and disabled Miller.
“I kept telling them that he can’t hear them,” 25-year-old Miller Jr. said. “I kept telling them he can’t understand them… My dad was a loving, caring person. He would give the shirt off his back to anyone.”
Investigators said the incident started on Friday when the Millers went to the tow yard to retrieve the red pickup truck. When they were unable, Fryer’s employee Darice Podgorski-Beneddix, 44, said the elder Miller “was being rude and yelling at her.” Other employees noticed that the younger Miller had a holstered weapon, and police were called.
Responding officers however indicated in their report that Miller Sr. “may have been yelling due to his being hard of hearing; however in no way was he trying to be rude.” Officers determined that the younger Miller’s concealed weapons license was current, and they left.
Father and son returned Saturday, and sheriff’s spokesman Gary Davidson said the deputies approached the vehicle and saw that Miller Sr., who also has a licensed to carry permit, was armed.
“While the specific sequence of events isn’t being released at this time due to the ongoing investigation, during the encounter, Hernandez perceived a threat and fired his duty weapon, striking and killing the man,” Davidson said.
Both officers have been placed on leave. A co-investigation is now underway by the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
Gina Miller, Edward’s spouse, said her husband was born deaf, and also was permanently disabled after falling from a tree cutting incident. The couple celebrated their 30th anniversary last month.
“He was disabled and hearing impaired,” Gina Miller said. “He only had 2 percent of his hearing. He would read lips.”