TAMPA, FL - Hearing-impaired people listening to a news conference about the arrest of a suspected serial killer received a message of gibberish from an American Sign Language interpreter.
When Tampa police Chief Brian Dugan announced the arrest of Howell Donaldson on Wednesday night, interpreter Derlyn Roberts was there beside him, making signs that made no sense.
"She sat up there and waved her arms like she was singing Jingle Bells," Rachell Settambrino, who is deaf and is an instructor t American Sign Language at the University of South Florida, told the Tampa Bay Times through an interpreter.
One of the things Roberts signed, according to Settambrino, was the following: "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."
During the announcement, the chief was actually providing a timeline of the four shootings, and describing how his agency had received approximately 5,000 tips before arresting the 24-year-old suspect.
To most of the people watching, she appeared to be translating for the chief. But, to those know sign language, and depend on translators, Roberts' message was a jumbled, confusing mess. Roberts has multiple arrests on fraud charges.
The department's public information officer now says he should have vetted Roberts before letting her into the news conference.