Justice Dept. ends probe of cops’ use of force in drug suspect’s arrest; suspect’s lawyer calls fed’s decision ‘unfortunate’

The Justice Department ended its probe of Florida cops’ use of force in a late September arrest of a drug suspect, the Associated Press reported.

James Felte Jr. — the department’s criminal section chief — wrote in a letter to Jacksonville Sheriff T.K. Waters that the arrest of Le’Keian Woods doesn’t present a prosecutable violation of federal civil rights laws, the AP said.

What’s the background?

Woods ran from police after a traffic stop and appeared to resist arrest, even after getting hit with a taser.

A passerby recorded cellphone video of Woods’ arrest, which showed numerous officers using force to gain control of him, including slamming his head into the ground; the video also showed Woods’ swollen face after he was handcuffed.

Jacksonville police release report, booking photo of man accusing officers of brutalityyoutu.be

Woods’ attorney called for a federal investigation and accused Waters of a cover-up, the AP said in a previous story. But Waters ripped critics during a news conference during which bodycam video of the arrest was shown:

“So, it’s pretty unbelievable, disheartening, to have to announce that social media is not reality. Its content is not fact-checked by any entity. Because of this misinformation campaign by the anti-police fringe, our agency has come under fire, and individual detectives’ lives have been threatened. This intentionally misguiding manipulation of facts is wrong and dangerous, and I will not remain silent while the truth is buried to advance a particular agenda. The truth is Woods sustained facial injuries when he fled from police and was tased [and] fell face-first onto the concrete. Detectives struggled with him, and as I stated before, they used strikes to … gain control, but he continued to resist arrest. The outcome of Woods’ apprehension contrast[s] with that of his friends in the truck who immediately complied with police and suffered no physical injury. Force looks ugly, as I stated before, because all force is ugly, not because the detectives engaged in misconduct. And based on the currently available information, the agency believes that the involved detectives acted appropriately with respect to the law and [sheriff’s office] policy.”

Here’s the video of the news conference. Bodycam video showing the traffic stop, chase, and Woods’ arrest begins at the 7:49 mark:

Waters and Mike Shell, his assistant chief for public accountability, said officers knew Woods had been accused of murder at one time, was on probation for armed robbery, and had been connected to firearms and drug trafficking when they chased him after the traffic stop, the AP reported.

Woods has been on probation after pleading no contest to a 2017 Tallahassee robbery in which he and his roommate tried to rob a marijuana dealer at gunpoint, the AP noted, citing court records.

The dealer pulled his own gun and fatally shot the roommate as Woods fled, the outlet also said, adding that Woods originally was charged with second-degree murder over his roommate’s death, but a plea bargain was reached last year that released him without prison time.

Woods was charged in this latest encounter with resisting arrest with violence, armed trafficking in cocaine and methamphetamine, and other felonies, the AP noted.

‘Unfortunate’

Woods’ attorney Harry Daniels told the AP in a statement that “while it is unfortunate that the DOJ’s Special Litigation Section has chosen to close its review so quickly despite the clear evidence before them, it is not surprising. At the end of the day, that’s why we have the civil courts where a jury will ultimately decide justice.”

The outlet, citing his attorneys, said Woods suffered a ruptured kidney, vomiting, and migraine headaches following the confrontation.

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