Legally blind Lake City man sues for wrongful arrest by Columbia County deputy and sergeant

LAKE CITY, Fla. – A legally blind Lake City man is suing the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office, Lake City and Columbia County after a controversial bodycam video went viral following his arrest.

The lawsuit stems from an incident that happened on the morning of Oct. 31 at Marion Avenue and E. Duval Street.

James Hodges, 61, was on the sidewalk and had a walking aid folded up and secured in his back pocket. Deputy Jayme Gohde is seen on a bodycam video asking about the item in his back pocket, thinking it may have been a firearm.

An exchange between the two started, and it ended in Hodges’ arrest.

WATCH: Body cam video below:

Gohde’s supervisor, Sgt. Randy Harrison, was also there at the time of the arrest. According to the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office, Gohde and Harrison were found to have committed policy violations.

The Columbia County Sheriff’s office released a statement days after Hodges’ arrest saying Sheriff Mark Hunter was “troubled by what he has seen in the video and the matter is being addressed.”

Harrison was demoted and suspended without pay for seven days. Gohde was suspended without pay for two days. Both are undergoing remedial Civil Rights training.

Here’s what was said during the exchange between Hodges, Gohde and Harrison:

Gohde: “What’s this in your back pocket?”

Hodges: “It’s a navigational aid, what’s the problem are you a tyrant.”

Gohde: “Yeah I am actually. What’s your name and date of birth?”

Hodges: “I don’t have to give that unless....”

Gohde: “Yes sir, I was investigating...”

Hodges: “....reasonable articulated suspicion”

Gohde: “Do you want me to put you in handcuffs right now?

Hodges: “What is your suspicion?”

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

Hodges: “Have you ensured that it’s not a firearm?”

Gohde: “No, you keep turning so I can’t see it.” (Hodges holds up folded navigation aid) “You don’t have to be a d#*k to me.”

Hodges: “Well you’re being one to me.”

Gohde: “No sir I’m doing my job.”

Hodges: “Am I detained?”

Gohde: “Yeah, you are, what’s your name?”

Hodges: “It does not matter.”

Gohde: “Yes sir it does.”

Hodges: “Do you have a crime?”

Gohde: “Would you like me to put you in handcuffs?”

Hodges: “Call your supervisor please.”

Gohde: “He’s right here.”

Hodges: “Alright.” (Walks over to Sgt. Harrison)

Harrison: “Sir, what did she stop you for?”

Hodges: (shows navigation aid) “For a walking stick.”

Harrison: “It could look like a weapon.”

Hodges: “Really?”

Harrison: “She asked you to present it okay.”

Hodges: “Now she’s asking me for ID. I don’t need to give ID unless a reasonable articulated suspicion, or if I had committed a crime or about to do a crime.”

Harrison: “Sir, her suspicion was that you were armed, okay. She’s asking you for your I.D.”

Hodges: “Well, now she has verified that I am not armed, so there is no problem.”


Hodges: “I do have my I.D. but you don’t need it.”

(Gohde and Harrison put Hodges in handcuffs)

Following Hodges’ request for badge and ID numbers, Harrison, threw his arms up in the air and said, “You know what, put him in jail for resisting.”

On Thursday, Hodges’ attorney John Phillips spoke to the media about the lawsuit filed against the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office, Lake City and Columbia County. Phillips also is requesting a federal investigation into the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office.

“Look, police protect us and we depend on police to do a hero’s job,” Phillips said. “But when they are poorly trained, when they abuse their power, it is the biggest breach of trust that our society has.”

Phillips went on to address the incident caught on body cam.

“You see a self-proclaimed tyrant throwing a man in jail over ego tripping and power abusing,” Phillips said.

“As far as justice in my case, judging from the response of you people, I’m pretty sure I’m gonna get it,” Hodges said.

WATCH: Attorney John Phillips’ news conference below:

About the Author:

Tarik anchors the 4, 5:30 and 6:30 p.m. weekday newscasts and reports with the I-TEAM.