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Bodycam video shows Columbia County deputy mistake cane for firearm, arrest visually-impaired man

In the video, James Hodges tells police he is legally blind. After an argument, one officer is heard saying, "You know what? Put him in jail for resisting."

COLUMBIA COUNTY, Fla. — An arrest made by the Columbia County Sheriff's Office is going viral. 

In the body camera video, attached to this story and embedded below, a deputy stops a visually-impaired man, identified as James Hodges, who had a cane in his back pocket. 

First Coast News talked with Hodges who says before the arrest he was on his way back home from the courthouse.

He says since the body camera video went viral, the supports he's got from the community has been great.

“Makes my chest swell up not in a proud way in a very appreciative way," said Hodges.

The arrest happened the morning of October 31st and the deputy asked Hodges what's in his back pocket.

"Hi there. What's this in your back pocket? I just saw you walking," the deputy says.

"It's a navigational aid," Hodges responds. "What's the problem? You're a tyrant?" 

"Yeah, I am, actually," the deputy says.

The deputy then asks Hodges for his name and date of birth.

Hodges responds that he doesn't have to give that information unless the officer has reasonable cause.

"Do you want me to put you in handcuffs right now?" the officer asks.

"What is your suspicion?" Hodges asks.

"It looked like you were carrying a gun in your back pocket. I'm stopping to make sure you're carrying it properly," the deputy says.

Hodges takes the cane out of his pocket, showing it to the deputy. He asks her: "Am I being detained?" 

She says that Hodges is being detained and asks him for his ID again. He asks to see her supervisor, and she directs him to another officer standing nearby.

Hodges shows the cane to the other deputy, who says that he agrees it could look like a firearm.

"Her suspicion was that you were armed," the other deputy says.

"But now she's verified that I am not armed," Hodges says. He is again asked for his ID and refuses to give it.

The deputies then handcuff him and ask where his driver's license is, and take his driver license out of his pocket.

"Sir, are you legally blind?" one of the arresting officers asks. Hodges says he is.

"I had to walk up here in the dark for jury duty, which was canceled," Hodges said.

"Why weren't you using your stick? You don't have to use your stick all the time?" asks the officer.

"Not all the time," Hodges responds.

When he asks the female officer who originally arrested him for her badge number, an officer offscreen says, "You know what? Put him in jail for resisting." 

The female officer then loads Hodges into a squad car and the video ends.

The Columbia County Sheriff's Office said they are looking into this arrest, posting a statement on Facebook that reads:

"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 Columbia County Sheriff's Office has declined to further comment on the issue or release the full body camera video to the public. 

Hodges says that he has formally made a complaint against the two deputies and intends to file a lawsuit against the deputies.

Credit: Columbia County Sheriff's Office
Columbia County Sheriff's deputies arrested James Hodges claiming he was resisting arrest.


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