One week ago, Columbia county Sheriff’s Deputy Jayme Gohdy stopped James Hodges, a legally blind who can’t drive, when he was on his way home from Lake City, Florida. She erroneously thought Hodges’ collapsible white cane was a pistol.
Gohdy’s body cam captured a video of the encounter that was later posted on Hodges’ YouTube Channel.
Deputy Gohdy could be heard on the video asking James Hodges what was in his back pocket, to which he answered that it was a navigational aid.
Hodges tried to inquire what the issue was before the cop asked about his name and date of birth, which he declined to disclose.
“Do you want me to put you in handcuffs right now?” Asked deputy Gohdy. “It looks like you’re carrying a gun in your back pocket. I’m stopping you to make sure you’re carrying it properly,” She added.
“Have you ensured that it’s not a firearm?” Hodges asked her.
“No, you keep turning, so I can’t see it. You don’t have to be a dick to me,” the deputy said.
Hodges told the deputy how rude she was to him as he pulled out his collapsed white cane from the back pocket and showed it to her.
“Am I detained?” Hodges asked.
Deputy Gohdy responded rudely as she insisted on knowing the man’s name and date of birth.
Sgt. Randy Harrison, Gohdy’s sergeant, arrived shortly from the Sherrif’s Office. Hodges went over to speak to him. “Her suspicion was that you were armed, and she’s asking for your ID,” Sgt Harrison said.
“I verified that I am not armed, so there is no crime,” Hodges answered. As he was still hesitant to provide the identification card, the deputies handcuffed him. Hodges cooperated as the sergeant pulled out his ID from one of his pants pockets.
“You are not allowed to search me,” Hodges said affirmatively.
Using her radio, deputy Gohdy checked Hodges’ records.
Sgt. Harrison later inquired if Hodges was legally blind, to which he agreed and added that he had made the nighttime trek for the jury service, which had been canceled.
Hodge’s warrant check was clear, so the sergeant asked, “Why ain’t you using your stick?
“Alright, Mr. Hodges, was that that hard?” Deputy Gohdy added.
The tables turned as Hodges demanded to know the Deputy’s name and badge numbers.
Sgt. Harrison commanded that Gohdy be put to jail for resistance.
Hodges was taken to prison in the back seat of the deputy’s police car.
It is worth noting that deputy Gohdy’s body cam video shows no instances of Hodges violently resisting arrest. He was accused of the first misdemeanor of resisting arrest without violence, which can earn a one-year jail sentence, with a fine of $1,000 and a 12 months probation period.
Over a million people viewed Hodges’ video, with the social media channels for the Sheriff’s office receiving numerous posts calling for an investigation and many more things.
Inquiries requesting Columbia county Sheriff Mark A.Hunter’s comment on the issue went unanswered. But his public relations officer, Steven Khachigan, issued the following statement declaring that the department had begun an internal investigation into Hodges’ arrest:
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.
Sgt.Khachigan also gave a copy of the arrest report for Deputy Gohdy.
In her report, she said that when she first encountered Hodges, she spotted “what appeared to be a silver (chrome) pistol with a white grip in his back right pocket.”
She added in the report that Hodges “was found to be in violation of FL Statute 843.02, by obstructing the ongoing investigation when he repeatedly refused to allow identification of the object in his pocket as well as by refusing to identify himself.” Without incident, James Hodges was detained for resisting without violence and taken to the Columbia County Detention Facility.
Deputy Gohdy also falsely mentioned that Gohdy only showed them his cane after he was handcuffed, which is contrary to what happened.
In Florida, police records are official documents, and any falsification is considered a crime.
Even though the Sheriff’s office charged Hodges, Sgt, Khachigan admitted that the Columbia County State Attorney’s office ultimately decides whether to file formal charges against Hodges or dismiss the case entirely.
When asked if Columbia County residents could anticipate this level of law enforcement, Sgt, Khachigan would only give vague responses.
“If you look at our social media, do we have instances where our deputies have made mistakes? That is certainly the case. Anywhere is going to have that. I think you’ll find that the majority of the time, most of our community members say they appreciate the job we do. Does that mean we’re without fault? No, it doesn’t. In those times, we have to follow procedures that are set in place. In general, you can find times when we’ve sent out press releases before where we’ve shared good stories. Sometimes, there were some things not in a positive light. We’ve owned those things as well,” he said.
Only when hunting, camping or fishing are open carries permitted in Florida. Open carry is prohibited unless one of those exceptions applies.
Sheriff Hunter came out against a bill in 2015 that would have made open carry lawful.
Sheriff Hunter criticized the open carry bill in a letter to his citizens.
“My highest priority is the safety of the citizens of Columbia County,” the Sheriff wrote. “I do not support the bill in its current form because I do not believe it will make us safer.”
Sgt. Khachigan agreed that legal open carry could have avoided Hodges’ arrest.