The United States Department of Justice says they are monitoring the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office after officers’ brutal September beating of 24-year-old Black man Le’Keian Woods.
The DOJ responded to a request from Woods’ attorneys, Harry Daniels and Marwan Porter, in early October to investigate his beating at the hands of police as well as JSO’s history of excessive violence, particularly against people of color.
According to News4Jax, the Civil Rights Division of the DOJ responded Oct. 23 saying that they would look at Woods’ arrest and take appropriate action if they find a prosecutable federal criminal civil rights offense.
But, it’s been a month since Le’Keian Woods was viciously beaten by police and the DOJ hasn’t officially opened an investigation, which could mean they are unsure if the attack on Woods by officers merits criminal charges. Civil rights attorney Harry Daniels still hopes the DOJ will take action. In October 2022, the DOJ considered a similar case when Dalvin Gadson was racially discriminated against during a traffic stop by the Colorado Springs Police Department.
“Sheriff Waters and the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office may not take this kind of brazen and unapologetic violence seriously. But the DOJ sure does,” said Daniels. “Some of the stories we’ve heard are downright terrifying and it’s encouraging to know that now the JSO’s victims have somewhere to turn for justice.”
The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office pushed back on reports they were being monitored by the DOJ.
“Any characterization that the Department of Justice is actively monitoring the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office is categorically and unequivocally false,” JSO wrote in a statement. “The JSO is not being monitored, investigated, or examined by the DOJ. As our agency has previously articulated, we welcome the DOJ inquiry regarding the JSO officers’ conduct during the arrest of Mr. Woods, as we are confident that federal investigators will arrive at our same conclusion that the involved officers acted within administrative policy.”
According to the police report, on Friday, Sept. 29, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office Gang Unit was conducting undercover surveillance in the San Jose area when they came across Le’Keian Woods. The truck that Woods was the passenger in was pulled over by police who claimed there was suspicion of a drug deal but admitted they used the seat belt violation as justification for the stop. JSO says the vehicle kept driving “as if the occupants were looking for a place to run.”
After the truck eventually stopped, Woods allegedly jumped out of the front passenger seat and ran through an apartment complex. When officers caught Woods they tased him twice before Woods fell face-first onto the pavement. JSO then claims Woods started to “violently resist” as detectives attempted to arrest him.
Le’Keian Woods was charged with armed traffic of methamphetamine, armed traffic of cocaine, armed possession of a controlled substance, resisting an officer with violence and violation of probation.
Video of the arrest sparked nationwide outrage as allegations of police brutality began to lead the national narrative.
Attorneys likened the arrest of Le’Keian Woods to a “UFC ground and pound beat down by trained professionals,” questioning if officers had the right to pull over the vehicle Woods was a passenger in.
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