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Deaf Black Mom Says Kids 'Traumatized' After Being Forced To Interpret As Police Detained Her

Deaf Black Mom Says Kids 'Traumatized' After Being Forced To Interpret As Police Detained Her
FOX5 Las Vegas/YouTube

A video of North Las Vegas police officers handcuffing a deaf Black mother in front of her children who were told to interpret for them sparked outrage on social media.

Speaking exclusively with Fox5 on Zoom—with the help of a local sign language interpreter, Lucy Venghaus—Andrea "Dre" Hollingsworth said she "never thought this would happen to me because I am not a criminal."

She believes her interaction with officers from the North Las Vegas Police Department (NLVPD) could have ended tragically had it not been for her courageous daughters.

"My kids saved my life," said Hollingsworth.

On April 7, the confused mother went on Facebook Livestream on her phone to film her encounter with the NLVP. She was unable to read their lips since the officers wore masks.

She recalled her initial moment of panic at the beginning of the interaction.

"I don't know, I'm being pulled over and he is interrogating me … I am Black, I am deaf, George Floyd just happened," she said.

"The police officer pulled my arm … and I was like, 'whoa, why?' I have never experienced anything like that in my life,"

An officer standing at the open driver's-side door was heard in the video, saying, "Let's go. You're recording; I'm recording too."

In the video published on Hollingsworth's Facebook page, the officers said they were responding to investigate "reports of stalking and harassing."

Hollingsworth said she was in the area near Decatur Boulevard and Ann Road to retreive rent money after moving out early. But the landlord had called the police.

You can watch the Facebook Livestream, here.

Hollingsworth was then yanked out of her vehicle by her arm as she was quickly signing to her camera to describe what was happening.

You can watch the news report here.

One of the officers instructed Hollingsworth's eleven-year-old twin girls to get out of the car since their mother was unable to communicate.

In the video, the officer told the girls he was investigating their mom and told them:

"I will have you come with me so you can talk."

Hollingsworth tried to reason with the officer, but to no avail.

She recalled:

"I'm saying, 'Look at this. We need to text, we need to write,' and he just kept on talking,"

One of the girls explained to the officer:

"She is just here because she needs her money back from her friend."

The officer then forced Hollingsworth to sit on the curb, causing her to drop her phone.

Her daughters were heard screaming in the video as their mother was put in handcuffs, leaving her unable to communicate.

The officer told the frightened girls:

"Tell her to put her hands behind her back. One of you guys need to talk some sense into her."

Many people were outraged over the incident.

Andrew Rozynski, a deaf rights lawyer with Eisenberg & Baum in New York, said what the girls endured was a direct violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

He said:

"Requiring an 11-year-old to interpret in a police situation is against the Americans with Disabilities Act. There are regulations in there that expressly prohibit children from being used as interpreters."

Rozynski added the children were forced into a situation they shouldn't have been, especially since police departments have access to 24-hour interpreter services for multiple languages—including sign language.

"There are services out there such as video relay, in which someone can bring up an interpreter on an iPhone or iPad."

In matters regarding police encounters, the ADA states in part:

  • Agencies must give primary consideration to providing the aid or service requested by the person with the hearing disability.
  • Agencies cannot charge the person for the communication aids or services provided.
  • When interpreters are needed, agencies must provide interpreters who can interpret effectively, accurately, and impartially.

Hollingsworth praised her girls for saving her life but also explained why they are intimidated whenever they see an officer.

She also demanded change so that no one else in the deaf community would have to suffer a similar situation.

"My kids are afraid because of all the incidents that have been happening recently. They are raised Black in this community, so when they see a police officer, they are also on high alert."
"I really want all of Las Vegas police to change, because it is really scary how deaf people are treated. If my kids weren't with me, then I would have died that day. My kids saved my life."

A "Justice for Dre Hollingsworth" petition was started on, and the campaign description states:

"Her story is getting little recognition and her daughter is still traumatized at what happened."

The NLVPD claimed Hollingsworth "initially refused to comply with requests and was briefly detained until police completed their investigation."

They also issued the following statement:

"This department will make every effort to see that its employees communicate effectively with people who have identified themselves as deaf or hard of hearing."