The U.S. Department of Justice cleared the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office’s recent arrest of a 24-year-old that caught national attention in September because of its brutality, saying in a letter the arrest “does not give a rise to a prosecutable violation of the federal civil rights laws.”
The Justice Department told JSO in a letter Friday it has closed its review of the matter.
Jacksonville Sheriff T.K. Waters has defended the officers who arrested Le’keian Woods on Sept. 29. All of them have returned to work.
Those officers jolted Woods with a Taser twice and punched and kneed him at least 17 times during his arrest. It left Woods’ face so puffy and bloody that his mugshot required a content warning when displayed by local TV news stations.
Woods’ attorney Harry Daniels sent a letter on Oct. 5 to the DOJ, detailing Woods’ closed head injury, a ruptured kidney and severe swelling and cuts to his face. Daniels also wrote that Woods “is one of several unarmed people of color who has been brutally beaten after encountering members of JSO.”
An Oct. 23 DOJ letter, reported on earlier this week, said the department was “monitoring the incident.” After that letter became public, the Sheriff’s Office pushed back, saying “any characterization that the Department of Justice is actively monitoring the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office is categorically and unequivocally false.”
In a statement Friday, Jacksonville Sheriff T.K. Waters criticized “false and misleading statements stating that the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office was actively being investigated.”
The September incident began, police said, after they stopped a truck Woods was a passenger in after witnessing him involved in a drug deal. When the truck stopped, Woods took off running and fell on the pavement face first after he was hit with a Taser prong. Police said they believed Woods was armed at the time of the rest, but no gun was found on him. Police did take a gun from the pants pocket of another passenger, who was arrested without incident.
Legislators have also called on the Justice Department to investigate JSO over its jail conditions.
State Rep. Angie Nixon and state Sen. Tracie Davis asked the department to investigate the Duval County jail after The Tributary found the death rate among inmates tripled after the jail privatized medical care.
The letter cited that reporting, and urged the department to investigate “potential violations of federal law by those involved.”
The DOJ referred that request for internal review, but federal prosecutors wouldn’t “confirm or deny” they were investigating the jail conditions. The department said the legislators “should not interpret this acknowledgment as confirmation of an investigation of the matters described in your letter.”