JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Attorneys for a drug suspect who was repeatedly punched, elbowed and kneed by officers in northeast Florida during a traffic stop said Tuesday that they are petitioning the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the case.
Le’Keian Woods suffered a ruptured kidney, throws up whenever he eats and has migraine headaches following the confrontation on Friday, his attorneys said at a news conference outside the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office headquarters. Mug shots taken after Woods’ arrest shows him with both eyes swollen shut and bruises and cuts on his face.
“He is in excruciating pain,” attorney Marwan Porter said. “He is really, really hurting.”
Porter likened the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office officers’ behavior to an Ultimate Fighting Championship “ground and pound beatdown by trained professionals, allegedly.”
Sheriff T.K. Waters on Monday that his officers’ actions were justified because Woods appeared to resist arrest even after he was zapped with a stun gun and pinned to the ground.
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 after a traffic stop, said the sheriff and Mike Shell, his assistant chief for public accountability, at a news conference Monday night.
The sheriff said all the officers remain on the street “where they belong.”
Woods’ attorneys said Tuesday that their client’s past was irrelevant to what happened on Friday.
“The culture here in Jacksonville, in Duval County … we don’t have a bad apple, we have a bad apple orchard,” attorney Harry Daniels said. “When the sheriff validates, ratifies and confirms the actions of these officers, who are back on the streets today, nobody is safe.”
Body camera footage shows that Jacksonville officers 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.
The video shows Woods, however, bolting from the front passenger’s seat and into the apartment complex, with an officer chasing him. Daniels, Woods’ attorney, said his client had a right to walk away because there was no probable cause that a crime had been committed and the truck was pulled over for a seat belt violation.
“If there’s no probable cause, the passenger can get out and leave,” Porter said.
In the video, the officer repeatedly yells at Woods to get on the ground or he will shoot him with his Taser stun gun. When the officer gets close enough, he shoots him twice with the stun gun, and Woods falls face first onto the pavement.
The officer then jumps on top of Woods and repeatedly tells him to put his hands behind his back. Woods, who is 5-foot-8-inches tall and 160 pounds (1.7 meters and 72 kilograms), squirms and sometimes puts one hand or the other behind his back, but then moves the other beneath him.
In an arrest report released Monday, the officer said he repeatedly hit Woods in the head and ribs and elbowed him in the face, fearing that he was reaching for a gun in his waistband. Detective Josue Garriga arrived and said in the report that he kneed Woods in the head and shoulders while another punched him. After about two minutes, they get Woods handcuffed, according to the video.
Another body cam video shows officers still accusing Woods of resisting arrest as they try to lift him from the ground, so they slam him back. They then drag him into a sitting position on the ground.
Woods been on probation after pleading no contest to a 2017 robbery in Tallahassee, Florida, in which he and his roommate tried to rob a marijuana dealer at gunpoint, according to court records.
In 2019, Garriga shot a man in a traffic stop over an unbuckled seat belt, according to public records. Prosecutors found the shooting was justified, and a lawsuit filed by the dead man’s family was later settled for an undisclosed amount, federal court records show. Daniels was the family’s attorney.