A breakthrough in a US multiple homicide investigation is being overshadowed by reports that an American sign language interpreter used by the Tampa Police Department was bogus or at the very least off their game.
The arrest of Seminole Heights murder suspect Howell Donaldson Jr. was announced at a late night press conference on November 28. Donaldson Jr. has been charged with four counts of murder in connection with the deaths of Benjamin Mitchell, Monica Hoffa, Ronald Felton, and Anthony Naiboa.
However, the means by which the Florida police department communicated the arrest has fallen under intense scrutiny. One expert in sign language compared the interpreter’s message to “singing Jingle Bells.”
“She sat up there and waved her arms like she was singing Jingle Bells,” Rachelle Settambrino told the Tampa Bay Times, through an interpreter.
Settambrino, who teaches sign language at the University of South Florida, compared the woman’s signing to “gibberish more than anything,” according to ABC Action News.
She also expressed her frustration at the lack of coherence offered to deaf viewers of the conference. “I was disappointed, confused, upset and really want to know why the city of Tampa’s chief of police who is responsible for my safety and the safety of the entire community did not check her out.”
It is reported that the female interpreter signed nonsensical phrases such as “10 arrest murder bush” and “murder three minutes in 14 weeks ago.”
It’s unclear whether the woman is a certified American sign language interpreter. RT.com has contacted the Tampa Bay Police Department for an interview. The press conference was live streamed with the confusion over the sign language interpretation leaving viewers in dismay.
“The ASL interpreter is not completely clear on what’s being said on here so I can only understand the gratitude of the community,” one person wrote.
Another advised: “Y’all need to contract with reputable agencies and get qualified sign language interpreters. The person on the screen is incomprehensible when she isn’t completely off the mark.”
One man, purporting to understand sign language, pointed out that much of the first minute of the press conference was “unintelligible” for deaf people.
RT.com has reached out to the American Sign Language Organization for their take on the incident.