UPDATE: Lauren Sue
Columbia County Sheriff Mark Hunter announced during a news conference on Tuesday that Deputy Jayme Gohde and Sgt. Randy Harrison were put on unpaid suspension. Officials completed their investigation on Monday and found that Harrison and Gohde violated policies of the sheriff’s office.
"As a result of these findings, Sgt. Harrison will be demoted immediately, suspended without pay for seven days, and will not be eligible for any favorable action for two years," Hunter said. “Deputy Gohde will be suspended without pay for two days.”
“Both deputies will be required to undergo remedial training pertaining to civil rights,” the sheriff added. “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. I do not feel these deputies' actions were guided by ill intent but rather by frustration and failure to rely on their training."
Harrison has been employed with the sheriff's office for 24 years, and Gohde, for two years.
An administrative investigation is underway at a Florida sheriff’s office after body-camera video showed a deputy and her supervisor detain a legally blind man she mistakenly believed was carrying a gun instead of a walking stick. The Columbia County Sheriff's Office identified the deputy as Jayme Gohde in an incident report Daily Kos obtained on Tuesday. Her body-camera video showed what happened when she stopped James Hodges on Oct. 31.
“What’s this in your back pocket,” the deputy can be heard asking Hodges.
“It’s a navigational aid,” he responded. “What’s the problem? You a tyrant?”
Gohde then said, perhaps sarcastically, that she was, and she asked Hodges for his name and date of birth. “I don’t have to give that unless—” Hodges said. He couldn’t complete his statement, though, because the deputy cut him off.
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Still, he tried to assert his rights, asking the deputy if she had “reasonable articulated suspicion.”
“Do you want me to put you in handcuffs right now,” she asked, then answered his question. “Yes, sir, I do.”
When Hodges asked what her suspicion was, Gohde told him “it looked like” he was carrying a gun in his back pocket. “I’m stopping to make sure you’re carrying it properly,” she said.
At that point, Hodges asked her if she had ensured it was not a firearm, and he took out the navigational aid and showed it to the deputy.
“You don’t have to be a dick to me,” she said.
Hodges responded: “Well, you’re being one to me.”
He then asked if he was being detained, and Gohde said he was.
When Hodges asked for her supervisor, she pointed out Sgt. Randy Harrison. Hodges explained to Harrison what happened, and instead of letting Hodges go after verifying that his walking stick was not a gun, both Gohde and Harrison handcuffed Hodges.
He stood quietly handcuffed.
“Sir, are you legally blind,” Harrison asked.
Hodges responded that he is. “I had to walk up here in the dark for jury duty, which was canceled,” he said.
Harrison then asked Hodges why he wasn’t carrying his walking stick and whether he had to carry it all the time.
Hodges responded that he doesn’t have to all the time, and Gohde interrupted another silent moment that followed.
“Alright, Mr. Hodges, was that that hard?” she asked.
Hodges responded: “It’s gonna be. I want your name and your badge number.”
Harrison suggested arresting Hodges for resisting, and the deputy ushered him to a sheriff’s office SUV.
“I want your name and badge number, too, sir,” Hodges said to Harrison.
The handcuffed man asked Gohde to pick his property off the ground and to remove the walking stick from his back pocket so he could sit in the SUV. She obliged and also took his jacket.
It was all quite civil, except that it wasn’t.
Officials claimed in the incident report that the deputy initially observed Hodges crossing a street “when the traffic control device indicated not to walk.” The deputy also accused Hodges in the report of trying to “turn away” when she first approached him.
After video of the detainment went viral, the sheriff’s office released this statement on Monday:
“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.”
Daily Kos has asked the sheriff’s office to detail any disciplinary actions the deputy and supervisor may face. The sheriff’s office replied that a public information officer would be responding.
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