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Deaf man arrested after scuffle with guards

August 12, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
Home video showing security guards from a Hollywood store in a scuffle with two men who appear to be deaf has become the talk of the Internet. It appeared the two men were confused and they were trying to tell the security guards that they are deaf.

Police said one of the men apprehended by the security guards, Alejandro Rea, was charged with robbery, but did not say what he stole. He had a prior record but officials also did not say what for.

Rea posted bail believed to be $50,000 and was released Monday.

Rea's brother was not arrested.

Joshua Fountain shot the video of the physical altercation outside of the Forever 21 clothing store at Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue on Saturday.

Two security guards are seen in the video, with one of them on the ground holding one of the Rea brothers in a choke hold. Meanwhile, the other brother is circling frantically trying to help. The two men are making sounds and gesturing but they aren't speaking, the reason for that, according to Fountain, is because they are deaf.

"My common sense would tell me that these guys are deaf, based on their vocals," Fountain said. "They were trying to gesture that they were deaf and that they needed to get something situated because they were obviously confused."

He believes when the men walked out of the store the alarm went off and the security guards grabbed them.

"It wasn't set off with lights, it was set off by sound and they walked out not knowing exactly what happened because obviously they couldn't hear," Fountain said. "They were so scared, they were trying to defend themselves because the guy even if he was a store detective he was dress casually, he wasn't uniformed like an employee, otherwise he would have realized, OK, this guy's trying to stop me."

Forever 21 issued this statement: "We are troubled by the video and do not condone the use of excessive physical force by our employees. We are investigating this matter and will take action once we have the full story."

"If anything I'd like this store, Forever 21, to go ahead and give a public apology, regardless if it was them shoplifting or not," Fountain said.

Dr. Patricia Hughes, CEO of the Greater Los Angeles Agency on Deafness (GLAD), issued this statement:

"GLAD is appalled by this incident since it clearly showed ignorance on the mall and its security staff. I am very concerned because this popular location has many deaf and hard of hearing customers residing in this area, yet the mall remains ignorant on how to communicate with deaf and hard of hearing individuals.

While the security guard used excessive force in choking the deaf customer, the other deaf customer attempted to communicate with the security staff that the customer on the floor is deaf; however, he was brushed away as if he was not a human being.

GLAD hopes that these two deaf men will contact us so we can work on this unfortunate incident. It is crystal clear that the mall lacks the knowledge on working with people with communication barriers. The whole incident is completely unacceptable."


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