The Department of Justice announced they are “monitoring” the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office Gang Unit following the brutal beating of Le’Keian Woods that left the nation shocked. However, it wasn’t just Woods’ beating that drew the DOJ in but a series of police brutality complaints.
In a letter to the department, Woods’ civil rights attorney Harry Daniels detailed the incident from Sept. 29. Woods was the passenger in a vehicle pulled over for a seatbelt violation. When he tried to flee the scene, the officers detained him but in doing so, struck him over a dozen times in the face and body with their fists and knees. Daniels wrote that Woods suffered a ruptured kidney and severe swelling to his head which could be seen in his booking photo that has since circulated the internet.
Following the public outrage, the JSO responded with an internal investigation that came up dry, release of body camera footage and press conference where Sheriff T.K. Waters insisted the officers’ use of force was justified. As expected, Woods and his attorneys weren’t going for that conclusion.
Daniels then asked the DOJ Civil Rights Division to investigate further but not just Woods’ incident, several other beatings of unarmed people allegedly by the hands of the JSO.
Read the DOJ’s response:
The Criminal Section of the Civil Rights Division investigates and prosecutes violations of federal criminal civil rights statutes. Much of our enforcement activity relates to violent bias- motivated crimes, as well as deprivations of rights under color of law, which most often involve allegations of excessive physical force by law enforcement officers.
The Division, through its Special Litigation Section, has authority under the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act, 42 U.S.C. $ 1997, to investigate complaints about a pattern or practice of unlawful conditions in state or locally operated institutions, including prisons, jails, and correctional facilities. Generally, a “pattern or practice” requires proof of repeated conduct that affects more than one person. When the Division finds a systemic “pattern or practice” depriving people of constitutional rights, it may bring a civil action against state or local officials to remedy the unconstitutional conditions.
The Criminal Section and the United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida are aware of the allegations, and we are monitoring the incident.
The DOJ also said if there is any information they find that poses a prosecutable federal criminal civil rights offense, further action will be taken.
So far, the DOJ has launched a probe into the Memphis Police Department after the killing of Tyre Nichols, the Minneapolis PD after the killing of George Floyd and recently, the Trenton PD following the paralysis of a Jajuan Henderson, per USA TODAY.