Innocent deaf woman jailed without an interpreter

Lashonn White 
By: Debbie Gross 

An innocent deaf woman was jailed for no reason minutes after calling police for help.

Now, a federal disability rights group has launched an investigation into how Tacoma police and the Pierce County Jail treated the deaf Washington woman.

Several weeks ago, police Tasered Lashonn White just minutes after calling 911 for help. Police reports said that White failed to follow a police order for her stop, something White said there was no way for her to hear. She has been deaf since birth. Officers arrested White and charged her with assault and obstruction.

"All I did was come running, shake hands and comply, and the next thing I know I'm on the ground," White said through an interpreter certified by the American Sign Language organization.

A prosecutor declined to file charges against White, but did not review the case for nearly three days. White sat in jail about 60 hours during the Easter weekend holiday before being released.

"They did not read me my charges or anything," White said. "I'm still wondering exactly what happened. I believe that made no sense. Why do we have an Americans with Disabilities Act?" She said.

Going into the Pierce County Jail is scary, but for someone like White, who has never been arrested, the experience was emotionally overwhelming.

"When I was in jail, all I wanted to do is mourn. I was so upset. I could not believe what was happening to me. I'm thinking, 'What am I doing here?' I was doing my best to get along with people because I was nervous. I did not know who is there," said White.

White feared exchanging notes with the police or prison guards because she thought it could be used against her later, so she requested an interpreter from the American Sign Language organization to facilitate clear communication.

However, it never came.