Officers will not face disciplinary action for the violent arrest last week of a drug suspect in Florida, their sheriff said, as officials allege a moment from bystander video that sparked outrage over the encounter had been “intentionally altered.”
“Based on the current available information, the agency believes the detectives acted appropriately with respect to the law and (agency) policy,” Jacksonville Sheriff TK Waters said Monday of the arrest of Le’Keian Woods.
Waters acknowledged the officers used force in arresting Woods, calling it “ugly.”
“But the reality is that all force, all violence is ugly. And just because force is ugly does not mean it is unlawful or contrary to policy,” he said in a news conference. The case is the latest in the United States in which police stand accused of using excessive force against a Black person.
The officers involved in the arrest were on active duty Monday.
Woods, 24, was out of jail on felony probation from a robbery charge and had been pulled over Friday on suspicion of drug activity when the arrest happened, Waters said. He now faces drug charges in addition to charges of resisting officers with violence, an arrest report shows.
Woods’ attorney has called the drug charges “trumped up,” and said in a news conference Tuesday that police used “deadly force” in arresting his client.
“Kneeing a person in the head, it’s not just use of force – it’s deadly force,” said attorney Harry Daniels. “I didn’t see anything on that video … that warranted any type of force, let alone deadly force.”
Mugshot shows arrestee with eyes swollen shut
Woods fled authorities after they stopped the vehicle he was in, sheriff’s office bodycam video released Monday shows. One officer used a stun gun on Woods, causing him to fall on his face in a roadway.
Woods began to “violently resist” officers as they tried to take him into custody, a police report obtained by CNN shows. He did not obey commands and was “concealing his right hand near his waistline.” An officer “delivered three elbows to the right side of the suspect’s eye area,” according to the report.
Then, more officers arrived, including one who kneed Woods above his shoulders, bodycam footage shows. That action was an effort to gain Woods’ compliance as he was being handcuffed, said the sheriff’s chief of professional standards, Mike Shell.
Separately, a 6 1/2-minute witness video released by Woods’ attorney, shows officers – some in uniform and others in plain clothing and police vests – held Woods down while at least one officer slammed him to the ground. When Woods was rolled over and sat up, his face was visibly swollen and distorted, with both eyes bruised and bulging, the bystander video shows.
Woods’ mugshot shows his eyes swollen shut, with a cut on his chin and a busted bottom lip.
Waters released the official bodycam footage of the incident Monday after the bystander video circulated widely online this weekend.
The sheriff alleged a moment of the witness video had been reversed in a way that made it look like a detective kicked Woods after he was handcuffed. A CNN analysis did not find any apparent alteration or manipulation of the bystander video.
The detective identified as having kicked Woods actually had hurt his leg or was stretching it, said the sheriff, whose office in a news release said the altered footage gave the “illusion of an inappropriate use of force.”
Officer bodycam footage and unedited versions of the bystander video “definitively indicate” the detective “never kicked” Woods, Shell said.
Family attorneys want feds to investigate
Asked Tuesday about the sheriff’s claim of altered bystander video, Woods’ attorneys said they had not manipulated any footage, pointing to the more than six-minute-long video they released.
“The video we put out ran from the start to the end,” Daniels said.
Paramedics responded to the scene after the arrest, Shell said, adding Woods was taken to a hospital.
Woods was in possession of a semi-automatic handgun, cocaine and other substances when he was pulled over after undercover officers observed him allegedly selling drugs at a gas station, the arrest report states. He was booked on charges of armed trafficking in methamphetamine, armed trafficking in cocaine, possession of a controlled substance and resisting an officer, it shows.
The gun in question belonged to another passenger in the car and was registered to that person, Daniels said.
Woods remains in “excruciating pain,” his attorneys said in Tuesday’s news conference. Attorney Broderick Taylor said his client’s face was still purple and that his eyes were still swollen shut. Taylor asserted Woods has ruptured kidneys and throws up any food he tries to ingest.
The attorneys planned to ask the US Department of Justice to investigate Woods’ arrest, Daniels said in a statement Monday evening, saying Waters was “complicit” and “an enabler of clear misconduct by his officers.”