Sign Language Impostor Babbles Through Tampa News Conference

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Mon, Dec 4 - 1:56 pm EST | 12 months ago by
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Members of Tampa’s deaf community who tuned in to last week’s news conference announcing the arrest of a suspect in the Seminole Heights murder spree were left more confused than informed after the sign language interpreter turned out to be a phony.

On November 28, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and Police Chief Brian Dugan announced that they had arrested Howell E. Donaldson III in connection with the four slayings that had terrorized residents of the Seminole Heights neighborhood for weeks.

Instead of conveying this message, though, the American Sign Language interpreter who was on camera during the event was communicating something else entirely, the Tampa Bay Times reported.

“She sat up there and waved her arms like she was singing Jingle Bells,” ASL teacher Rachelle Settambrino, who is deaf, told the newspaper. “I was disappointed, confused, upset and really wanted 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.”

The mystery deepened when the Tampa Police Department confirmed that it did not request an interpreter for the event. Now, the department will conduct an internal review to learn “who sent this particular interpreter to the news conference to provide services,” spokesperson Janelle McGregor said.

The woman in question, identified as Derlyn Roberts, offered up translations such as this gem: “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.”

That was Roberts trying to convey Dugan’s explanation of the timeline of the four murders and the fact that his department received over 5,000 tips in the weeks leading up to Donaldson’s arrest.

This is the second time that deaf Floridians have been left baffled by unskilled interpreters. During a Manatee County news conference held just before Hurricane Irma made landfall, a bumbling interpreter failed so miserably in translating the recommended safety precautions that he somehow signed the phrase “bear monster.”

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