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Deaf Men Stabbed: Attackers Thought Sign Language Was Gang Signs

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By Cynthia Hsu, Esq. on May 04, 2011 11:16 AM

Something was lost in translation in Florida. The end result? Two deaf men stabbed and hospitalized.

Sign language is an interpretive language, and last Saturday at a Hallandale Beach bar a gang-banger misinterpreted one sign for another: gang signs.

A group of hearing-impaired men, out for a birthday celebration, were stabbed when their sign language was mistaken for gang signs by 45-year-old Barbara Lee. Among the victims is Alfred Stewart, 31, who is deaf and blind.

Lee saw Stewart and his friends signing to each other in the bar, and thought that they were flashing gang signs, the New York Daily News reports. In response, Lee flashed gang signs at the hearing-impaired men. In turn, the deaf men made a motion for her to leave them alone.

Lee then left the bar and returned with two teenage cohorts who started to stab Stewart and his friends. One of the victims was a bouncer who tried to intervene, and got a bottle to the head in the ensuing brawl.

"Only sign language. That's the only way they [communicate]... they do sign language," Stewart's mother told WSVN-TV.

Lee, Marco Ibanez, 19, and an unidentified 17-year-old were arrested on charges of assault with a deadly weapon, reports NBC Miami.

A charge of assault with a deadly weapon is more serious than a regular charge of assault. In a simple assault case, the victim is put in fear of bodily injury by the perpetrator. If the perpetrator uses a "deadly weapon," such as a knife or a gun, the victim is put in an even greater fear of bodily injury. As a result of the more serious nature of the charge, the criminal sentences for assault with a deadly weapon are harsher.

The trio of culprits will likely be spending some time in custody. We all will surely reap the benefits of reducing the number of deaf men stabbed by gang members who cannot recognize gang signs.

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