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A blind man was arrested after an officer thought he had a gun

It was his cane
cane.png
Posted at 8:28 AM, Nov 10, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-10 10:28:05-05

A blind man in Florida was arrested after officers mistook his cane for a gun. Now, two officers with the Columbia County Sheriff's Office have been put on temporary administrative leave.

Body camera footage shows an officer approach James Hodges as he walks down the street in Lake City, asking him what is in his back pocket. Hodges tells the officer, who has been identified as Deputy Jayme Gohde, it is a navigational aid.

Hodges asks for the reason why Gohde stopped him, and she says she thought it was a firearm and she is making sure he is carrying it properly. Hodges takes the cane, which is folded up, out of his back pocket to show her it is not a gun. Gohde tells Hodges he is being a "dick" when he questions why she stopped him.

Hodges then begins to speak to another officer, identified as Sergeant Randy Harrison, at the scene. "Her suspicion was that you were armed, and she was asking for your ID," the officer tells him.

"Well, now she's verified that I am not armed. So there's no problem," Hodges says.

Harrison continues to argue with Hodges then both officers proceed to handcuff and arrest him. During the arrest, Harrison asks if Hodges is legally blind and he says yes.

When Hodges asks for the offices' names and badge numbers, Harrison says: "You know what, put him in jail for resisting." According to arrest report obtained by CBS News, Hodges was arrested for resisting an officer without violence.

During a press conference on Tuesday, Sheriff Mark Hunter said the body camera footage was provided to Hodges and then was "circulated across many outlets." CBS Gainesville affiliate WGFL obtained the video. 

The incident occurred on Oct. 31, and the sheriff's office began its investigation on Nov. 3 when the incident was brought to their attention, Hunter said.

WGFL received an internal report written after Hodges filed a complaint against the officers. The report states the officers "ultimately arrested him with insufficient probable cause."

"The arrest was made after Sgt. Harrison gave an unlawful order to make an arrest after probable cause did not exist," the report states.

On Nov. 7, the sheriff's office determined the officers committed several policy violations. Hunter said Harrison will be demoted immediately and suspended without pay for seven days. Gohde will be suspended without pay for two days. Both will undergo remedial training on civil rights.

"I do not feel these deputies actions were guided with ill intent but rather frustration and failure to rely on their training," Hunter said. "Nevertheless, this conduct is unacceptable. We will work hard and train to ensure these incidents do not reoccur."

The Columbia County Sheriff's Office did not have further comment at this time.

In an interview with WGFL, Hodges' partner Rutha M. Jenkins said the incident was a "shock" to Hodges. "When they pulled it out, they saw it was a cane, so that should have been enough right there to let them know he is blind," she said. "You are all messing with the wrong person, but I don't think they care."