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Sign language interpreter causes confusion at Florida news conference

A sign language interpreter at a news conference detailing the arrest of a suspected serial killer caused confusion last week, The Tampa Bay Times reported.

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On Nov. 28, the Tampa Police Department held a televised news conference about the arrest of Howell Emanuel Donaldson III, who is accused of four murders in the Seminole Heights neighborhood.

There was an American Sign Language interpreter on camera at the news conference, but little of what she signed made sense, the Times reported..

"She sat up there and waved her arms like she was singing ‘Jingle Bells,’” Rachelle Settambrino, who is deaf and teaches ASL at the University of South Florida, told the Times through an interpreter on Sunday.

“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.”

Tampa Police Department spokeswoman Janelle McGregor, who identified the interpreter as Derlyn Roberts, said the department did not request an interpreter for the news conference. She said the Tampa police are conducting an internal review to determine “who sent this particular interpreter to the news conference to provide services,” the Times reported.

Roberts could not be reached Sunday for comment.

Settambrino said that according to Roberts, Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan at one point said:

"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 arrest murder bush (indecipherable) three age 24."

What he was explaining was a timeline of the four murders and how police received more than 5,000 tips in the case before they arrested the 24-year-old suspect.

It’s not the first time a signer has caused confusion in Florida. When Hurricane Irma threatened the state in September, an ASL interpreter at a Manatee County news conference was not qualified to provide needed safety precautions, the Times reported. That interpreter, at one point, signed the phrase “bear monster,” according to news reports.

The Tampa police had a new interpreter at its news conference the next day, the Times reported.

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