His silence mistaken, deaf man attacked
By ALEX BRANCHStar-Telegram staff writer
FORT WORTH -- A store cashier struck a deaf customer in the head with a crowbar after he mistook the man's silence for rudeness and disrespect, police said.
The cashier, Ricky Benard Young, 20, faces a charge of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.
The customer, Cody Goodnight, 31, suffered "a large knot" on his head during the incident, which occurred Saturday at the Family Dollar Store at 4117 E. Lancaster Ave.
"I can't believe someone would hit him for not speaking," said Goodnight's mother, Kay Goodnight. "When you're deaf, you don't make a point of starting conversations with people."
Young's defense attorney, Mark Scott, said Thursday that he was recently assigned the case and declined to comment.
Kay Goodnight called police after her injured son returned home from the store late Saturday morning. Family members translated Cody Goodnight's story to officers using sign language.
Goodnight said went to the Family Dollar several blocks from their house to buy a soft drink for his 5-year-old son. Inside the store, he put the soda on the counter to pay.
The cashier tried to speak to him but got angry when Goodnight didn't respond, Goodnight told police. The cashier threw Goodnight's change at him, scattering it on the floor.
As Goodnight picked it up, the cashier hit him in the side of the head with the crowbar, Goodnight said.
Officers went to the store, where Young immediately asked if they were there about what "happened earlier," said Lt. Dean Sullivan, a police spokesman. The cashier told officers that he had tried to start a friendly conversation with Goodnight but that Goodnight wouldn't acknowledge him.
At one point, Young told officers, Goodnight mumbled something that Young thought was racial in nature, Sullivan said. Young told officers he struck Goodnight because he thought Goodnight was going to assault him.
After officers told Young that Goodnight was deaf and unable to communicate verbally, Young responded "Oh," Sullivan said.
"Upon further investigation, it appeared the suspect became frustrated when the victim wouldn't respond or acknowledge his attempts to converse," Sullivan said. "He became outraged and struck the victim in an unwarranted attack."
The store's surveillance tape was erased or taped over prior to officers' arrival, Sullivan said.
A corporate spokesman for the Family Dollar Store did not return a phone message Thursday.
Cody Goodnight was treated at the hospital for his injury but still has pain in his head and neck, Kay Goodnight said Thursday.
Deaf since the age of 2, when he suffered a high fever, Goodnight speaks in guttural sounds -- "deaf speak" as his mother calls it.
His stepfather, Barry Adair, said Goodnight doesn't like talking to people he doesn't know.
"He gets embarrassed because people make fun of the way he talks," Adair said. "He's not trying to be rude or unfriendly. You just can't understand him unless you're around him a lot."
Emily Robinson, a Fort Worth deafness resource specialist, said that while it is unusual for a deaf person to be attacked physically, misunderstandings are common. People sometimes take deaf people for rude when they are unresponsive, she said.
"It is a really big problem," Robinson said. "Businesses should be professional and sensitive to deaf people. There are training workshops about the deaf culture and what to expect in interactions with us."
Alex Branch, 817-390-7689