Columbia Sheriff ‘troubled’ by body camera video from arrest of legally blind man

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The Columbia County Sheriff’s Office said it is conducting an administrative investigation into a recent arrest of a legally blind man.

Body camera video has been circulating online of the Monday, Oct. 31, arrest of James Hodges, 61, who was arrested for resisting arrest without violence.

A deputy believed Hodges was carrying “what appeared to be a silver (chrome) pistol with a white grip in his back right pocket,” according to Hodges’ arrest report. The item was later identified to be a folded-up walking stick.

Hodges was crossing Marion Avenue near Duval Street “when the traffic control device indicated not to walk,” the report said.

The report said the deputy approached Hodges to identify what was in his back pocket, but said he “continued to turn away,” the report said.

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Hodges refused to provide his name and date of birth and told the deputy they were “only allowed to request his identification if he was in the act of committing a crime, about to commit a crime, or had already committed a crime.”

Hodges was then handcuffed and after the deputy conducted a pat down, they found his ID in his front left pocket.

Another deputy arrived and asked Hodges if he was legally blind and Hodges confirmed he is. The second deputy asked Hodges why he wasn’t using his walking stick and Hodges said he didn’t need it in the daylight. He told both deputies he used the stick as he walked to the courthouse for jury duty.

Hodges was booked into the Columbia County Jail just before 8:30 am on Monday, Oct. 31, and was released just before 10:30 am on Tuesday, Nov. 1.

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In a post on its Facebook pageCCSO said Sheriff Mark Hunter “is troubled by what he has seen in the video and the matter is being addressed.”

CCSO said the administrative investigation began Thursday when the incident was brought to its attention. Here is the full statement CCSO posted on its Facebook page:

“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.”

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