Florida sheriff calls deputies' arrest of legally blind man for carrying cane 'unacceptable'

Two North Florida cops have been disciplined after they arrested a legally blind man for refusing to identify himself.

The arrest of Jim Hodges occurred on October 31 when sheriff's deputies from Columbia County stopped the 61-year-old as he was walking down the street. At issue was the folding cane, which Hodges was carrying in his back pocket. Hodges showed officers that it was his cane and not a weapon, as one deputy believed it to be.

After that interaction, the deputies asked for Hodges identification. He explained, correctly, that he doesn't have to share that information if he's not suspected of a crime or otherwise being detained. The deputies responded to this refusal by arresting him and charging him with resisting arrest. The entire incident was captured on one of the deputy's body cameras and that footage went viral after Hodges shared it.

The arrest report mischaracterized the incident, saying that Hodges repeatedly refused to identify what he was carrying in his pocket. The report, written by  deputy Jayme Gohde, says that deputies were only able to identify his walking stick after they had placed Hodges in handcuffs. In fact, Hodges held up the cane in front of Gohde and clearly told her it was his cane before placing it back in his pants. The cane was only removed from Hodges' pants by deputy Gohde after he had been placed in handcuffs and was walked to her vehicle. He requested that she remove it so he could sit down in the car.

In a statement this week, Columbia County Sheriff Mark Hunter called the conduct of the two deputies "unacceptable."

"As sheriff, I take full responsibility for this event and want to extend my sincere apologies to Mr. Hodges for the actions of my deputies,” he  said in a video shared to Facebook. “I do not feel these deputies’ actions were guided by ill intent, but rather by frustration and failure to rely on their training. Nevertheless, this conduct is unacceptable."

Hunter said that deputy Jayme Gohde and her supervisor Sgt. Randy Harrison would face punishment for their actions in the video. Harrison was suspended for seven days without pay. The junior deputy Gohde was suspended for two days. In addition, Harrison will not be eligible for raises or promotion for two years.


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