A Florida sheriff apologized after a legally blind man was arrested when deputies mistook his walking cane for a gun.
Deputy Jayme Gohde and her supervisor were suspended after arresting James Hodges, of Lake City on Oct. 31 for resisting an officer without violence, according to Columbia County Sheriff Mark Hunter.
“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,” Hunter said Tuesday.
“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.”
Gohde confronted Hodges, 61, after he crossed a street with what appeared to be a pistol in his back pocket. The two almost immediately started arguing, according to body-cam video of the incident about 60 miles west of Jacksonville.
“Hi there. What’s this in your back pocket? I just saw you walking,” deputy Gohde is heard saying in the video.
“It’s a navigational aid,” Hodges responds. “What’s the problem? You’re a tyrant?”
“Yeah, I am, actually,” Gohde says.
Gohde threatened to cuff Hodges before he showed her the folded up cane.
Sgt. Randy Harrison, who was also on the scene, told Hodges that the cane looked like a weapon. After being placed in handcuffs, the deputies ask if he’s legally blind and he said he is.
Hodges then asked for Gohde’s name and badge number before Harrison “put him in jail for resisting.” Hodges then asked for Harrison’s name and badge number, too.
Sheriff Hunter said the two deputies violated department policies and would undergo training after their suspensions. Charges against Hodges were dropped.
He made a formal complaint and told First Coast News he plans to file a lawsuit against the sheriff’s office.
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