Blind Man Arrested For Wrong “Crime”

by Kevin Burton

   Blind people: use your canes!

   Or else, say police in Columbia County, Florida.

   Two Sheriff’s deputies have been suspended after they arrested 61-year-old James Hodges for “resisting arrest.”   Hodges, who is legally blind was carrying a folded cane in his back pocket. One of the deputies mistook the cane for a gun and stopped him for questioning. 

   Hodges was guilty only of jaywalking, according to multiple published reports.

Here is an account from the New York Post.

   “James Hodges, 61, was detained by the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office deputies on Oct. 31 as he walked on a sidewalk on his way home from the courthouse, First Coast News reported.”

   “’Hi there. What’s this in your back pocket? I just saw you walking,’ deputy Jayme Gohde says in bodycam footage.”

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

   “Yeah, I am, actually,” deputy Gohde answered.

   “The deputy asks Hodges for his name and date of birth, but he refuses to provide the information, arguing that she doesn’t have reasonable cause to make such a request.”

   “Do you want me to put you in handcuffs right now?” deputy Gohde asks.

   “What is your suspicion?” he asks.

   “It looked like you were carrying a gun in your back pocket,” deputy Gohde says. “I’m stopping to make sure you’re carrying it properly.”

   The subsequent police report said Hodges appeared to be carrying a ‘silver (chrome) pistol with a white grip in his back right pocket.’

   Hodges then pulls out the cane and shows it to the other deputy on the scene, Sgt. Randy Harrison, who says it could resemble a gun.

   “Her suspicion was that you were armed,” Sgt. Harrison said.
   “But now she’s verified that I am not armed,” says Hodges, who again refuses to present his ID, at which point they place him in handcuffs and appear to take his driver’s license out of his pocket.”

  “When asked if he is legally blind, Hodges says he is and explains that his jury duty was canceled.”

   “Why weren’t you using your stick? You don’t have to use your stick all the time?” one of the deputies asks.
   “Not all the time,” Hodges replies and asks Gohde for her badge number.

   “You know what? Put him in jail for resisting,” an officer is heard saying at that point of the video.

   Hodges was charged with resisting arrest without violence, Action News Jax reported.

   The Columbia County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement that “Sheriff Hunter is troubled by what he has seen in the video and the matter is being addressed.”

   “An administrative investigation was initiated on Nov. 3, when the incident was brought to our attention. If policy violations are sustained at the conclusion of that investigation, appropriate action will be taken,” the statement reads.

   The sheriff’s department refused a request from NBC News for further information on the video, including whether the video had been edited.

   Hodges told First Coast News that he has gotten support from the community after the incident.

   “Makes my chest swell up not in a proud way, in a very appreciative way,” he told the outlet, adding that he has made a formal complaint against the deputies.

    “Deputies Jayme Gohde and Sgt. Randy Harrison, have since been suspended and Sheriff Mark Hunter publicly apologized for the mistake,” according the NBC News.

   Multiple takeaways here. 

   First, blind people should use their canes.  I have preached this all my life. It’s a safety thing.  If you have it with you, why would you have it folded up in your back pocket?

   The only thing the deputies got right in this whole sorry incident was asking “You don’t have to use your stick all the time?”

   Not using your cane isn’t a crime, the way not wearing a seatbelt is.  The two are similarly unwise.

   Second, Hodges is white. If any minority group member addressed police officers in the manner he did, they could have been manhandled or even shot.

   OK, you weren’t there, I wasn’t there and it’s impossible to speculate on what could have happened. But that sort of thing happens every day in the United States, sometimes making the news, mostly I suspect, not.

   Third, if we can as a society and a governing force, let’s go ahead and ease Jayme Gohde and perhaps Sgt. Harrison on to some other career path.  Let’s take their badges and give them perhaps aprons of some sort, to remind them how a public servant should behave.

   Once they realized their mistake, the two officers should have apologized to Hodges and sent him on his way. 

   Self-admitted “tyrant” Gohde perhaps could be the czar of a dessert counter or a French fry machine. 

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