Jacksonville sheriff says body camera video shows officers were justified in beating suspect

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A Florida sheriff released body camera video Monday that he says shows his officers were justified when they repeatedly punched, elbowed and kneed a drug suspect who appeared to resist arrest even after being zapped with a stun gun and pinned to the ground.

The suspect’s attorney, meanwhile, is calling for a federal investigation of the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office and accused Sheriff T.K. Waters of a coverup. Friday’s arrest of Le’Keian Woods drew national attention after the release of a passerby’s cellphone video showing officers beating him and appearing to slam him face first onto the ground after he was handcuffed.

Waters and Mike Shell, his assistant chief for public accountability, told a news conference that the officers knew Woods had once been accused of murder, was on probation for armed robbery and had been connected to firearms and drug trafficking when they gave chase to him Friday after a traffic stop.

Mug shots taken after Woods’ arrest shows him with both eyes swollen shut and bruises and cuts on his face.

“There was force used by arresting officers and yes, that force is ugly. But the reality is that all force, all violence, is ugly,” Waters said. “But just because force is ugly does not mean it is unlawful or contrary to (agency) policy.” He said all the officers remain on the street “where they belong.”

Woods is charged with resisting arrest with violence, armed trafficking in cocaine and methamphetamine and other felonies.

Harry Daniels, Woods’ attorney, said he will petition the U.S. Justice Department to investigate his client’s beating.

“It’s unfortunate that the sheriff believes the beating of an unarmed man is justified,” Daniels said. “It is obvious that he is complicit and an enabler of clear misconduct by his officers. It is not surprising that (the sheriff’s office) didn’t find any misconduct because they investigate themselves.”

Body camera footage shows that Jacksonville officers, including Hunter Sullivan, stopped a Dodge Ram Pickup in an apartment complex’s parking garage. Shell said the stop came shortly after Woods completed a drug sale at a gas station. Officers are then seen pointing their guns at two men with Woods, and they surrender without incident. Waters said cocaine, fentanyl, methamphetamine and a handgun were found in the truck.

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