By midafternoon on Nov. 9, Avis Dupree, a deaf student at Gallaudet University, had completed her classes and collected her two deaf children from the elementary school on the Gallaudet grounds.

Now the three were waiting in the campus cafeteria inside the Ely Center. Avis expected her husband, Carl Dupree, also deaf, to appear any minute. He had promised to take her to the grocery store and then home to Springfield.

But Carl Dupree never made it to the cafeteria.

Dupree's argument with a teacher about a grade quickly escalated into a confrontation and violent struggle with at least six campus police officers in another part of the building. As the security officers subdued and handcuffed him, Dupree collapsed and died of asphyxiation by neck compression, according to an autopsy report.

The case, which has been ruled a homicide and is being referred to the U.S. attorney, has stunned students and faculty at Gallaudet, the scene of a widely publicized 1988 deaf movement that led to the selection of the first deaf university president, I. King Jordan.

Dupree, 41, had been active in a student movement protesting the university policy that requires new students to complete a basic English course called English 50. The dispute is part of a larger debate at Gallaudet over English requirements and the use of sign language in the classroom.

Since Dupree's death, some students have criticized the actions of security officers, complaining that they used excessive force and noting bitterly that guards effectively silenced Dupree by cuffing the hands he used to communicate.

Dupree family members, here from Georgia and Kentucky to help Avis Dupree and her children, say they still don't understand what happened.

"We are all in shock and trying to hold each other," said Dupree's sister, Sue Johnson, of Woodstock, Ga. "The children keep asking, 'Where is Daddy?' "

While the campus remained calm last week, word of new disclosures in the case traveled quickly among students. Protest gatherings were held and some students boycotted classes. Students set up a small memorial of flowers and candles at the scene of the struggle.

While many questions surrounding his final hours remain unresolved, the circumstances surrounding the life and death of Carl Dupree have offered a glimpse into the unique nature of a deaf family, the culture of the deaf world and some of the dominant issues at the premier university for the education of deaf people.

Born Nov. 4, 1949, in Atlanta, Dupree was one of five children. Three of them, including Sue Johnson, have no hearing impairment. Carl and his brother Steve were born deaf.

"We have a long line of generations of deafness in our family," Johnson said. Her parents and grandparents were deaf.

Johnson, the oldest of the children, learned to sign as a young child, even though she can hear and speak. The signing enabled her to communicate with her deaf parents and her deaf brothers.

As a boy, Carl Dupree attended the Georgia School for the Deaf and the Virginia School for the Deaf and Blind. After completing school in 1968, Dupree worked in Atlanta for the Postal Service and in Dallas for a company that made pacemakers.

Dupree and Avis Taylor met in 1976 at the Louisville Deaf Club. He had gone to Louisville to visit his brother; she was home to see family on a break from her studies at Gallaudet.

The couple married in 1979 and settled in Eufala, Ala., where Dupree worked as a guide fisherman. When the Duprees realized that their second son, Joshua, now 9, was deaf, they moved to St. Augustine, Fla., so he could attend a school for the deaf during the day and come home at night.

"That was important to Avis because she attended a residential school for the deaf, and she missed not being at home at night and having dinner with her family," Johnson recalled.

In St. Augustine, Dupree ran a taxidermy business to support his growing family, which now included two more children, Jorlena, 7, who has no hearing impairment, and Flave, 4, who is deaf.

He had a special relationship with his son, Carl Jr., 11, a Little League baseball player. While other parents could cheer their sons down on the field, they were too far away to communicate with them.

But Dupree, using sign language, could sit in the bleachers and sign to his son, suggesting a play or sending an encouraging message.

"He was a great father and a great person and that is what we want people to remember about him," Johnson said.

In 1988, the Duprees moved to Rochester, N.Y., where they believed there would be more educational opportunities for their deaf children and for themselves at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf. They were at the institute when a movement erupted at Gallaudet that swept Jordan into the presidency.

Dupree met Jordan at the institute when Jordan spoke there two years ago. That meeting prompted Dupree to move his family to the Washington area, where they could attend Gallaudet.

He enrolled in the fall of 1989, his sister said.

Dupree soon became active in a student effort challenging the English requirements. Students are required to complete English 50 within four semesters. If they don't, they can be barred from continuing at Gallaudet.

The group challenging the requirements is relatively small, perhaps no more than 100 students. But the questions raised by Dupree and his group go to the heart of a fundamental dispute at Gallaudet over communications issues, including the need for instructors and other university personnel to be proficient in the use of sign language and the need for deaf students to be proficient in reading and writing English.

One of the biggest issues emerging among Gallaudet students is the handcuffing of Dupree by campus police officers, cutting off his only means of communication.

Students now are advocating the study of a restraint system of chains, which would allow a person to use his or her hands to sign.

No charges have been filed in the case, but investigations are being conducted by the D.C. police and by Gallaudet University.

University officials said the struggle that led to Dupree's death was triggered by an argument he had had earlier in the afternoon with an English instructor. Gallaudet sources said the dispute was not related to Dupree's effort to change the English requirements; they said the argument was over a grade that Dupree had received from the instructor.

For now, Dupree's family is trying to comfort the children.

"Last night, I was hugging Carl Jr., just holding him close," Johnson said, "and he was saying how much he missed his father. He said he would never be able to go fishing with his father again.

"But then he said, 'But I have good memories of him.' "