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Howell Emanuel Donaldson

A sign language interpreter caused confusion at a police news conference

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An American Sign Language (ALS) interpreter caused confusion during a recent Tampa Police Department (TPD) press conference about four killings, according to The Tampa Bay Times.

The Times on Sunday reported that the interpreter perplexed deaf and hearing impaired viewers who watched the Nov. 28 event live.

The TPD was announcing the arrest of a suspect behind four killings in Tampa’s Seminole Heights neighborhood.

“She sat up there and waved her arms like she was singing Jingle Bells,” Rachelle Settambrino, who is deaf, said Sunday through an interpreter.

“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 entire community did not check out,” added Settambrino, who teaches ALS at the University of South Florida (USF) in Tampa.

Settambrino said that according to the interpreter, Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan at one point said the following remarks on Nov. 28.

“Fifty-one hours ago, zero 12 22 (indecipherable) murder three minutes in 14 weeks ago in old (indecipherable) murder four five 55,000 plea 10 murder bush (indecipherable) three age 24,” Dugan said, according to the translator Settambrino saw.

Dugan was explaining the time line of the four murders and the 5,000 tips the TPB subsequently received before arresting the 24-year-old suspect.

TPD spokesperson Janelle McGregor on Sunday identified the interpreter as Derlyn Roberts, adding “we did not request an interpreter for a news conference on the 28th.”

McGregor added that the TPD is conducting an internal probe to ascertain “who sent this particular interpreter to the news conference to provide services.”

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Dugan announced last month that Howell Donaldson III would be charged with four counts of first-degree murder for a series of seemingly random shootings in October and November.

The TPD had a different interpreter for its Nov. 29 news conference about the string of fatal shootings.

McGregor said that Ben Zapata was hired through Purple Communications, a company that the TPD typically uses for finding ASL interpreters.

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