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Columbia County Observer

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Columbia County Sheriff Gains Notoriety Across the Globe: Two Deputies Arrest Legally Blind Man Walking Home From Jury Duty

Jim Hodges gives the "skinny" on his arrest

COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – On November 1, 2022, one day after receiving the body cam footage of his detention and arrest from the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office, James Hodges posted the body cam footage on Facebook. It wasn’t pretty.

The body cam footage has been viewed hundreds of thousands of times across the globe, with thousands of comments, none good for Columbia County, the Sheriff, or the County's deputies.

On Monday, your reporter began getting emails with links to the video and calls from Alabama to Australia.

With the video going viral, last night your reporter hooked up with the victim of the video, Jim Hodges.

Your reporter opened the conversation by asking Mr. Hodges how he was feeling. He said, "I've still got the residuals from my neurologic disorder that decided to revisit me, thanks to the stress.”

Who Is Jim Hodges?

After being cuffed, Sgt. Harrison asked Mr. Hodges, "Are you legally blind?"
The arresting deputy's body cam is here.

Jim Hodges is a navy veteran. He said he enlisted at seventeen in 1978 after seeing how veterans were treated as they returned from Viet Nam. Mr. Hodges said, “Because of the bags of feces they were throwing at our returning heroes.”

Mr. Hodges explained he had a head injury in 1995. “I have a post-surgical neurological disorder. I have seizures from scar tissue on the brain.” He said stress aggravates his condition.

He continued, “That's what took my vision. For a long time, I had some real bad seizures. But I've managed to handle it for most of my life afterwards. I found ways to cope with it.”

Mr. Hodges said he couldn’t talk for too long because he had to watch the evening news.

Mr. Hodges Speaks to Sheriff Hunter

Mr. Hodges said that earlier, he had spoken with the Sheriff [Columbia County Sheriff Mark Hunter.

He said the Sheriff said they investigated the incident. “They found that the deputies were at fault, and they took what they thought was appropriate action. He took the sergeant stripes and gave him a week off without pay and gave her (arresting deputy) two days off without pay.”

Mr. Hodges said he knew his rights before he moved to the area. He said, “I knew my civil rights -- when I took my oath (at military induction), or at least I thought I did.”

Your reporter asked, “You're not familiar with the fact that once the police detain you, they have the right to ask you for identification?”

Mr. Hodges said, “They have to have a crime to detain me.” “They have to have reasonable, articulated articulable suspicion that I have committed a crime. Once I showed her that cane, I was no longer a suspect or the subject of an investigation… then they escalated it.”

Your reporter said the deputies stopped you because they thought that what you had in your pocket was a gun.

Mr. Hodges replied, “I showed them it wasn’t.”

“I wasn’t even asking for a ride.”

Sheriff Hunter giving press statement. The Sheriff's statement is not on the Sheriff's website.

Your reporter asked, “All they had to say was, 'We're sorry for the confusion. Where can we drop you off,' and everybody would have gone home?”

Mr. Hodges answered, “I wasn't even asking for a ride.”

Your reporter followed up, “But, what I'm saying is, if they were to have apologized and said, ‘Hey, look, we made a mistake. We’re sorry. Where can we drop you off?’ You and I wouldn't be talking right now. The world would be just as it was.”

Mr. Hodges said,” That's right. If they had been public servants instead of me serving their ego.”

Mr. Hodges said, “I don’t know why he [Sheriff Hunter] let them slide like he did?”

Then, Mr. Hodges explained, “I suppose it's because they're overworked, understaffed, and under extreme duress."

Your reporter said, “I don't know.”

Mr. Hodges said, “They're stressed out. I know that. I get it. But I'm a human being, too. I'm not a piece of shit. Excuse my French.”

Your reporter said, “I still don't understand why she [the deputy] pulled over. She must have been driving behind you, and maybe she thought you had some kind of zip gun or something?”

Mr. Hodges said, “She was driving behind me. She could have easily seen what it was.”

“She pulled in in front of me. She said the reason that she first noticed me was because I walked across the street in the crosswalk against the walk signal that said, ‘Don't walk.’”

Mr. Hodges said the signals didn’t work; they're red all the time. He said, “I reverted back to the days when I had a guide dog. I listened. I listened to the traffic. I follow the way the traffic is moving, and no matter what that little red light says… she figured I violated something by going against the big orange hand.”

Mr. Hodges explained that he has only small residual vision in his left eye and has learned to accommodate his condition over time.

Today, Mr. Hodges is scheduled to meet with noted attorney John Phillips to set a course for legal action.


Most of Columbia County’s Road Deputies and Bailiffs exhibit common sense and compassion when needed. Some do not.

What happened to Jim Hodges was unnecessary and could have been mitigated numerous times during the stop.

The actions of these two deputies have given the Sheriff and the Sheriff's Office a black eye which is not going away overnight.

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