A Florida sheriff’s deputy shot and killed a man Saturday afternoon during a dispute outside a towing company, but the man’s relatives said he was deaf and unable to hear deputies’ commands.
Deputies said 52-year-old Edward Miller was “brandishing a firearm” outside Fryer’s Towing Service in Dayton Beach when he was fatally shot by Deputy Joel Hernandez, reported The News-Journal.
Miller, who lost his hearing after a childhood case of the mumps and suffered head injuries and a broken back in a fall several years ago, had gone with his 25-year-old son to resolve a dispute after his vehicle was towed.
An employee said Miller acted rude and yelled at her Friday, when he came to pick up the vehicle.
But Miller’s son said he was yelling because he had only 2 percent of his hearing.
The employee called police during that incident because Miller showed her his holstered gun, and she feared for her safety.
Police determined Miller had a valid conceal-carry permit and allowed him to keep the weapon.
Miller returned about 2:30 p.m. Saturday with the correct amount he owed the towing company, and the dispute resumed.
Hernandez and another deputy were already at Fryer’s on an unrelated matter and heard a heated argument outside the building.
Hernandez went outside to investigate and identified himself as a deputy, and then he noticed Miller had a gun.
“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,” said Gary Davidson, a spokesman for the sheriff’s department.
But Miller’s son said he tried to explain to the deputies that his father was deaf.
“I kept telling them that he can’t hear them,” said the son, also named Edward Miller. “I kept telling them he can’t understand them.”
Deputies briefly detained the son for questioning after the shooting.
Witnesses said Miller was sitting in his SUV with the windows rolled up at the time of the shooting, WESH-TV reported.
The younger Miller said the Florida Department of Law Enforcement asked his family not to release any information about the incident.
“Yesterday they hid me from the cameras,” Miller said. “They didn’t want any information about what happened out.”
The 35-year-old Hernandez was cleared in another fatal shooting early last year.
A suicidal man who was armed with a handgun moved toward Hernandez and another deputy Jan. 2, 2013, and ignored orders to stop.
Hernandez shot the 52-year-old man to death, but an investigation determined the use of force was justified in the previous case.
Authorities have not said whether deputies were aware Miller was deaf when Hernandez shot him.
The shooting is under investigation by both the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, a sheriff’s spokesman said.
“We’ll let those investigations play out and see what happens,” said spokesman Brandon Haught.
Watch this video report posted online by WKMG-TV: