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Blind Man's Arrest Prompts Probe of Florida Deputies

A sheriff’s office in Florida said it was investigating the conduct of two deputies after a viral video showed them arresting a legally blind man in Lake City on October 31, after mistakenly thinking a foldable walking stick in his pocket was a gun.

Police footage of the incident garnered attention after the man who was arrested, James Hodges, posted it on YouTube on November 1. Hodges indicated in his video caption that he suspected the deputies had violated the 4th Amendment of the US Constitution, which prohibits searches and seizures of people without reasonable cause.

In the footage, a female deputy approaches Hodges as he walks along West Duval Street in downtown Lake City and asks him to identify an object in his back pocket.

“It’s a navigational aid. What’s the problem? You a tyrant?” Hodges responds.

“Yeah, I am, actually. What’s your name and date of birth?” the deputy says.

Hodges refuses to provide his information, arguing that the deputy doesn’t have “reasonable suspicion.”

“Do you want me to place you in handcuff right now?” the deputy says, before arguing to Hodges that she had reasonable suspicion as she thought he was carrying a gun in his back pocket. Hodges then takes the cane out his pocket and shows it to her.

“You don’t have to be a d**k to me,” the deputy says. “Well, you’re being a d**k to me,” Hodges replies.

When Hodges asks the deputy if he is being detained, she says yes and repeats her request for his name and date of birth. “Do you have a crime?” Hodges asks her. “Call your supervisor,” he says. She directs him to a male deputy standing a few feet away.

That deputy defends his colleague’s actions, telling Hodges: “Her suspicion was that you are armed (…) and she’s asking you for your ID.”

“Well, now she’s verified that I’m not armed, so there is no crime,” Hodges tells him.

“Do you have your ID on you or not?” asks the male deputy, raising his voice. Hodges says he has it, but that the deputies “don’t need it.” The deputy tells Hodges he is being detained and begins placing him in handcuffs.

About three minutes into the video, Hodges, standing handcuffed on a sidewalk, tells the male deputy that he had walked up the road “in the dark” earlier that morning to get to jury duty.

A moment later, the female deputy, after checking on Hodges’ identification, says: “Alright, Mr. Hodges. Was that that hard?”

“It’s going to be,” Hodges replies. “I want your name and your badge number.”

The male deputy quickly tells the female deputy: “You know what? Put him in jail for resisting.”

Hodges is then placed into the backseat of a police vehicle.

The Columbia County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) said an “administrative investigation” was launched on November 3 after incident was brought to their attention. Sheriff Mark Hunter said he was “troubled by what he has seen in the video,” according to CCSO. “If policy violations are sustained at the conclusion of that investigation, appropriate action will be taken,” the sheriff’s office added. Credit: Columbia County Sheriff’s Office via Storyful

Video transcript

- Hi, there.

JAMES HODGES: Hey.

- (ON RADIO) What's going on with him?

- What's this in your back pocket?

- (ON RADIO) 10-4.

- I just saw you walking it.

JAMES HODGES: It's a navigational aid. What's the problem? You a tyrant?

- Yeah, I am, actually. What's your name and date of birth?

JAMES HODGES: I don't have to give that unless I'm--

- Yes, sir, I was investigating--

JAMES HODGES: Do you reasonable--

- Do you want me to put you in handcuffs right now? Yes, sir, I do.

JAMES HODGES: What is your suspicion?

- It looked like you're carrying a gun in your back pocket. I'm stopping to make sure you're carrying it properly. You don't have to--

JAMES HODGES: Well, have you ensured that it's not a firearm?

- No, you keep turning so I can't see it. You don't have to be a dick to me.

JAMES HODGES: Well, you're being one to me.

- No, sir. I'm doing my job.

JAMES HODGES: Have a good day. Am I detained?

- Yeah, you are. What's your name and date of birth?

JAMES HODGES: It does not matter.

- Yes, sir, it does.

JAMES HODGES: Do you have a crime?

- Would you like me to put you in handcuffs?

JAMES HODGES: Call you supervisor, please.

- He's right here.

JAMES HODGES: All right.

- Don't--

JAMES HODGES: Sir, what's the stop for? For a walking stick.

- I mean, it could look like a weapon. She asked you to--

JAMES HODGES: Really?

- --present it, OK?

JAMES HODGES: Now she's asking me for ID. I don't need to ID unless there's a reasonable articulated suspicion--

- And her suspicion--

JAMES HODGES: --that I have committed a crime, am committing a crime, or am about to do a crime.

- Sir, and her suspicion was that you were armed, OK? And she's asking you for your ID.

JAMES HODGES: Well, now she has verified that I am not armed.

- OK.

JAMES HODGES: So there is no crime.

- Do you have your ID or not?

JAMES HODGES: I do have my ID, but you don't need it.

- OK. Do you drive? Let me see it. OK?

[CLINCHING]

JAMES HODGES: Sir, it is a--

- (ON RADIO) Come in 47-77.

- 77 Whiskey Mark, detained. I don't know where his wallet is.

- Where's your wallet at, sir?

JAMES HODGES: I don't have a wallet on me.

- OK. Where's your ID?

- Where's your ID?

JAMES HODGES: In my pocket.

- Which pocket?

JAMES HODGES: You are not allowed to search me.

- What's in his pocket?

- OK.

- Thank you.

JAMES HODGES: I want your names and badge numbers.

- 12-37 I'm 8654 27.

- (ON RADIO) 10-4 427.

- (ON RADIO) 10-22, 23 just now.

[SIRENS WAILING]

- Sir, are you legally blind? OK.

JAMES HODGES: I had to walk up here in the dark for jury duty, which was canceled.

- Why aren't you using your stick? You don't have to use a stick all the time?

- (ON RADIO) I believe ID cardinal, why.

- 26.

- (ON RADIO) Bring.

- All right, Mr. Hodges. Was that that hard?

JAMES HODGES: It's going to be. I want your name and your badge number.

- You know what? Put him in jail for resisting.

- OK. All right, let's go.

JAMES HODGES: I want your name and badge number, too, sir.

- Have a seat.

JAMES HODGES: You want to pick my property up, please?

- I sure will, after you have a seat.

JAMES HODGES: I'm going to pull this out of my back pocket.

- Sure. Here, I'll grab your jacket for you, too.

- Hmm.