DAYTONA BEACH, FL—When 52-year-old Edward P. Miller of Port Orange, FL, failed to respond to a plainclothes officer’s instructions because of his deafness, the officer, Volusia County sheriff’s deputy Joel Hernandez, fired at him through the windshield of the SUV where Miller was sitting, killing him. So said Miller’s 25-year-old son, also named Edward, to Frank Fernandez, a reporter for the Daytona Beach News Journal.
The son, who witnessed the September 20 shooting from his own vehicle which was parked close to his father’s, said that he tried desperately to tell Hernandez that his father was deaf and could not understand the officer’s orders. “I kept telling them that he can’t hear them,” the son told the reporter. However, it was to no avail, and the officer fired six shots at him, the son said.
The sheriff’s office, along with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, is investigating the case. It has not said how many shots were fired at Miller. It placed Hernandez on leave during the investigation.
The slaying took place at the tow yard of Fryer’s Towing Service in Daytona Beach, where the Millers had gone to retrieve the son’s vehicle. What led up to the shooting is in dispute.
According to police, Hernandez was at Fryer’s on an unrelated matter when he heard a “verbal altercation” between Miller and employees of Fryer’s. According to the police report, employees said Miller was upset about the fees for his vehicle and was yelling at them. The report said that employees told officers they were afraid because Miller had a gun. However, the report also noted that Miller told the officer he was yelling due to his hearing loss.
Sheriff Ben Johnson told the News Journal that Miller was “brandishing a firearm” when he was shot.
A sheriff’s office spokesman, Gary Davidson, said that Hernandez identified himself to Miller as a sheriff’s deputy, though he did not say in what manner Hernandez did so. Davidson said that the officer saw that Miller had a firearm and, he told the reporter, “Hernandez perceived a threat and fired his duty weapon, striking and killing the man.”
However, according to the slain man’s son, his father was not brandishing a gun. Rather his gun was tucked in his waistband and covered by his shirt when he was shot. The son said–and the police confirmed–that Miller had a license to carry the firearm.
According to his family, Miller, who was married and had two adult sons, had suffered a severe hearing loss as the result of an early childhood disease.