(Dec. 12) Violent sign language interpreter's access to Obama triggers investigation - Tucson Local Media: Today's Headlines

(Dec. 12) Violent sign language interpreter's access to Obama triggers investigation

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Posted: Thursday, December 12, 2013 8:39 am

NBC News:

The vetting of a sign language interpreter who got within three feet of world leaders including President Barack Obama during Nelson Mandela's memorial was being investigated Thursday after organizers admitted they were unaware of his violent history of schizophrenic episodes.

Thamsanqa Jantjie, 34, was accused of gesticulating gibberish during Tuesday's service. Members of the deaf community said his movements did not resemble any recognized form of sign language and some groups accused him of being a "fake."

Jantjie told Johannesburg's Star newspaper he started hearing voices in his head and hallucinated while at the Mandela event, resulting in gestures that made no sense and outraged deaf people around the world.

The South African government on Thursday admitted that "a mistake was made."

Jantjie said he was happy with his performance -- describing himself in an interview with Talk Radio 702 as a "champion of sign language" -- but added that he may have suffered a schizophrenic episode while on stage.

"There was nothing I could do," he told the Star newspaper. "I was alone in a very dangerous situation. I tried to control myself and not show the world what was going on. I am very sorry. It's the situation I found myself in."

Jantjie later told The Associated Press that during the memorial he saw "angels" and had been violent in the past. He said he tried not to panic on Tuesday because there were "armed policemen around me."

For the full story, visit: http://worldnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/12/12/21873839-violent-sign-language-interpreters-access-to-obama-triggers-investigation?lite

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