Columbia County, Florida: Blind man, 61, arrested after police mistake his cane for a gun


Columbia County, FloridaBlinder, 61, arrested after police mistook his cane for a gun

Florida police handcuffed a blind man when he crossed a red light and mistook a cane for a gun.

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Hodges shows police his white cane, which officers mistake for a gun.

Columbia County Sheriff’s Office / Bodycam

“Are you a bully?” asked police officer Jame Gohde…

NBC/ Bodycam screenshot

... whereupon he was handcuffed and taken to the police station.

… whereupon he was handcuffed and taken to the police station.

NBC/ Bodycam screenshot

It was a foggy late October morning in Lake City, North Florida, when James Hodges, officially recognized as blind, crossed an intersection — according to two Columbia County officials — when the “Do Not Walk” light came on for pedestrians. Jayme Gohde and her supervisor Randy Harrison decided to control the men. According to the police report, “Hodges appeared to be carrying a silver handgun with a white handle in his back pocket.” This is reported by NBC News.

Gohde approached the suspect and asked him what he was carrying in his bag. Hodges exasperatedly replied, “What’s the problem? Are you a bully?” Gohde asked for his name and date of birth. When Hodges refused, Gohde asked him “if he wanted to be handcuffed.” When Hodges asked what the suspect was, the officer said it appeared he had a gun. Exasperated, Hodges took it folded stick and showed it to Gohde.

Finally, Harrison came and admonished him that he had to cooperate. Increasingly irritated, Hodges replied that he only had to give his name if he was suspected of a crime, and instead wanted to know the names of the police officers. It was apparently too much of a provocation for the two officers: they handcuffed Hodges and took him away in a patrol car. Charge: resisted inspection.

After the bizarre case became public, Sheriff Mark Hunter apologized to the 61-year-old man for the behavior of his officers. “I don’t think the actions of those two were out of malice, but more out of frustration and not being able to act according to their training,” Hunter said. “However, this behavior is unacceptable.” Gohde and Harrison were each suspended for several days and banned from promotion for two years. He also ordered the two to undergo special civil rights training.

Hodges remarked, “My chest is puffing out—not out of pride, but out of gratitude.”

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