James Hodges: Columbia County Sheriff’s Deputies Arrest Blind Man in Viral Video

james hodges columbia county sheriff arrests blind man video

YouTube James Hodges was arrested by the Columbia County Sheriff's Office.

James Hodges was arrested by the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office in Florida after Deputy Jayme Gohde mistook a walking stick for a gun. Bodycam video of the October 31, 2022, arrest has gone viral after it was shared on YouTube by Hodges. He was charged with resisting arrest without violence, a misdemeanor, court records show. Sheriff Mark Hunter is investigating the incident, according to a November 7, 2022, press release.

After the video went viral, the charge against Hodges was dropped, court records show. Third Judicial Circuit State Attorney John Durrett wrote on November 7, “After having examined all known evidence it is the determination of the undersigned that said cause does not warrant criminal prosecution against the above named defendant. Therefore, the State Attorney declines to file an information in said cause and said cause hereby stands dismissed.” Hodges spent 26 hours in jail before his release on November 1, according to online records.

Jim Hodges posted the video on November 1 and it gained attention on social media after it was posted on Reddit in the “PublicFreakout” subreddit with the title “Cops in Florida stop blind man walking home from jury duty,” and on Twitter by journalist Chad Loder, where the body camera footage has been watched more than two million times since November 6. Hodges titled his video, “Id refusal 4th Amendment violation,” and wrote in the description, “Blind man hauled off to jail! His cane looked like a weapon!”

According to the police report filed in Columbia County court, the deputy said she arrested Hodges because he refused to present identification after she stopped him because she thought the walking stick in his back pocket was a gun.

The sheriff’s office said in a statement, “We are aware of the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office body camera video involving the arrest of Mr. James Hodges on October 31, 2022. Sheriff Hunter is troubled by what he has seen in the video and the matter is being addressed. An administrative investigation was initiated on November 3, 2022 when the incident was brought to our attention. If policy violations are sustained at the conclusion of that investigation, appropriate action will be taken. While we understand the frustration and concern associated with this event, please know we are working to resolve this matter as quickly as possible.”

The Video Shows James Hodges Asking the Deputy ‘Are You a Tyrant?’ And She Responds, ‘Yeah I Am, Actually’

The video posted by James Hodges shows the 61-year-old Lake City, Florida, man walking down the street past Deputy Jayme Gohde. The deputy asks Hodges, “What’s this in your back pocket?” Hodges responds, “It’s a navigational aid. What’s your problem? Are you a tyrant?” Gohde replies, “Yeah I am, actually.” Gohde then asks for Hodges’ name and date of birth and Hodges tells her he doesn’t have to give that information to her. The deputy tells him he does because she was “investigating.”

Gohde, who has been a deputy since 2020, then asks Hodges if he wants her to put him in “handcuffs right now,” and he asks, “What is your suspicion?” The deputy answers, “It looked like you’re carrying a gun in your back pocket. I’m stopping you to make sure you’re carrying it properly.” Hodges then asks if she had determined if it was a firearm, and she said he had turned away from her so she couldn’t. He then can be seen in the video pulling out the walking stick and holding it up to show her.

“You don’t have to be a d*** to me,” Gohde tells Hodges, who responds, “Well, you’re being one to me.” The deputy can be heard saying, “No sir, I’m doing my job.” Hodges then asks Gohde if he is being detained and she tells him he is and again asks for his name and date of birth. Hodges then walks over to talk to Gohde’s supervisor, Sergeant Randy Harrison.

Harrison can be seen in the video asking Hodges why he was stopped and he holds up the walking stick and says, “for a walking stick.” Harrison tells him it “could look like a weapon.” When Hodges again tells the deputies he doesn’t need to provide ID, Harrison says he does because Gohde’s “suspicion was you may be armed.”

After Harrison asks Hodges for his ID and he refuses, the two deputies approach him and handcuff him. Harrison can be heard in the video telling Hodges he “deserves it” after he’s cuffed. Gohde then searches Hodges and pulls out his ID card. Harrison asks Hodges if he is legally blind and Hodges responds that he is and he was walking back from jury duty, which had been canceled. He said he used the walking stick earlier when it was dark and he was walking to the courthouse, the video shows.

Gohde then says, “Ok, Mr. Hodges, was that so hard?” He replies, “It’s going to be. I want your name and your badge number.” Harrison then raises his hand up and says, “You know what? Put him in jail for resisting.” Gohde responds to her sergeant, “OK, let’s go,” and puts Hodges in the back of a patrol SUV.

A First Amendment Lawyer Says Deputy Jayme Gohde’s Report Doesn’t Match With What’s Seen in the Video

First amendement lawyer Adam Steinbaugh, of the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE), tweeted, “The police report narrative does not match what the officer’s body camera recorded. On the left, what the officer wrote: that he ‘would not provide a clear view of the object.’ On the right, what happened before the part of the report reading: ‘I was then able to identify the object.'”

Steinbaugh added, “The department now says it is conducting an “administrative investigation.” One officer lied about the incident in a report. Both officers retaliated against him for criticizing them and pledging to file a complaint — all protected by the First Amendment.”

In her arrest report, Gohde wrote that she was on “routine patrol” about 8 a.m. on Marion Avenue and Duval Street in Lake City when the incdient occurred. “While at a stop light at Marion and Duval, I observed a white male enter the crosswalk travelling west bound across Marion Avenue when the traffic control device indicated not to walk. As the man continued through the cross walk, I observed what appeared to be a silver (chrome) pistol with a white grip in his back right pocket. I stopped the man later identified as James S. Hodges … As I approached James and attempted to identify what was in his back pocket, James continued to turn away from me. James indicated that the object was a walking stick, however, would not provide a clear view of the object. At that time, Sgt. Harrison also arrived on the scene.”

Gohde also appeared to attempt to question whether Hodges is actually visually impaired or needs a walking stick, writing, “Sgt. Harrison asked James if he was legally blind, James confirmed that he was. Sgt. Harrison then asked James why he wasn’t using his walking stick. James looked up at the sky and indicated that he didn’t need it in daylight. Simultaneously, James advised he used the walking stick this morning as he walked to the court house for jury duty. It should be noted that the weather at the time contact was made with James was extremely overcast and foggy. Vehicles passing by sstill had headlights turned on.”

Gohde wrote, “James was found to be in violation of FL Statute 843.02 by obstructing the ongoing investigation when he repeatedly refused to allow identification of the object in his pocket as well as refusing to identify himself. James was placed under arrest for resisting without violence and transported to the Columbia County Detention Facility without incident.”

Deputy Jayme Gohde Was Among Deputies Sued in Federal Court in 2022 by a Man Bitten by a Columbia County K-9 in 2020

jayme gohde columbia county sheriff

FacebookColumbia County Sheriff’s Deputy Jayme Gohde.

Deputy Jayme Gohde is named in a civil rights lawsuit filed against the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office in federal court by Martinezz Bowman, who says he was bitten by a K-9 during a “wrongful stop,” in October 2020. He is accusing the sheriff’s deputies of using “unreasonable and excessive force,” and threatening lethal force leaving him with a “debilitating leg injury.” He also accuses the deputies of failing to provide him with proper medical care, court records obtained by Heavy show.

According to the lawsuit, Gohde was with Deputy David Harvey, her training officer, when the incident occurred. They stopped Bowman for having “what they believed to be legally deficient tail lights,” but Bowman said in the lawsuit that body camera video showed “brake lights and turn indicators are visible.”

The lawsuit is still pending, records show.

Sergeant Randy Harrison Was Disciplined in 2010 After His K-9 Died in a Hot Car

sergeant randy harrison

Columbia County SheriffSergeant Randy Harrison.

Gohde’s supervisor, Sergeant Randy Harrison, previously made headlines in 2010 when he was suspended and investigated over the death of his police dog, Brutus, while he was working as a K-9 handler, according to The Associated Press. Brutus died in Harrison’s hot car. The incident was determined to be a “tragic accident,” the sheriff’s office said at the time.

“Authorities say Columbia County Sheriff’s Deputy Randy Harrison’s dog, Brutus, died June 10 after Harrison mistakenly left it in the vehicle parked at his home with the engine off and the windows up,” the AP wrote. “Investigators determined that Harrison was distracted by a personal matter. Harrison returned to the vehicle after more than an hour and found the dog dead in the back seat.” Harrison received a 15-day suspension and was no longer allowed to be a K-9 handler, the sheriff’s office said.

The sheriff’s office wrote at the time, “The investigation further showed that there was neither intentional malice nor criminal intent on behalf of the Deputy. Deputy Harrison had become distracted by personal events on the evening of the incident. Harrison left his home to attend to a personal matter and returned over an hour later to find that he left Brutus in his patrol vehicle. Deputy Harrison was immediately place on administrative leave while the internal investigation took place. The Deputy fully admitted to making a catastrophic mistake by leaving Brutus in the vehicle unattended.”

Sheriff Mark Hunter said Harrison’s “exemplary work record” was taken into account when determining the punishment. Hunter said in a statement, “This situation was a tragic occurrence for the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office and for Deputy Harrison and his family. This was an accident and no one feels more remorse than Harrison himself. Brutus was not only a working dog but part of the Harrison family. Deputy Harrison now has to live with his actions but this case has taught us all some important lessons. The agency as a whole, in time, will heal from this event, but the lessons learned will not be forgotten.”

In 2015, Harrison, then a corporal, shot and wounded a man who he said drove at him when he and other deputies were called to a landlord-tenant dispute, WJAX reported. The 72-year-old man survived the shooting, according to the news station. Harrison was placed on administrative leave before being cleared by an investigation conducted by the sheriff’s office, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Columbia County State Attorney’s Office, records show.