The 45-year-old victim was walking down a Burlington, North Carolina street using sign language when he was attacked and stabbed multiple times by a stranger. It is believed the attacker thought he was flashing gang signs.
Police received a call from members of the Burlington Fire Department shortly after 5 p.m. on Jan. 9. They found a man, later identified as Terrance ErvIn Daniels, lying in the grass near an intersection. He had been stabbed numerous times.
According to police the victim was involved in an altercation with another man near where he was found and had walked away but collapsed in the grass where he was found by firefighters.
After an investigation, police obtained an arrest warrant for Robert Jerell Neal, 22. With the assistance of the Elon Police Department, Neal was arrested without incident the next day.
Neal faces charges of assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill inflicting serious injury and felonious assault on a handicapped person.
While WRAL quotes Assistant Police Chief Chris Verdeck as saying mistaking sign language for gang signs as a reason for the attack is merely "speculative", the Daily Mail reports Staff Sgt. Mark Yancey as giving that as a reason for the stabbing. According to Yancey, Daniels was walking with another deaf person and signing when he was allegedly approached by Neal and stabbed numerous times with a kitchen knife.
Minutes after the stabbing took place, Cathy Sanford, who lives in the neighbourhood, heard her dog bark. When she looked out she saw a man running through her backyard and later identified him as Neal.
The Gaston Gazette reports Neal returned to her backyard later than evening and threatened Sanford's 12-year-old granddaughter. He also threatened to do harm to the dog.
Daniels was taken to the Alamance Regional Medical Center and was later transferred to UNC Chapel Hill. He was reported to be in stable condition.
Neal was transported to the Alamance County Detention Facility. Bond was set at $500,000.