Man seen punched in viral Florida arrest involved in possible drug deal, ‘violently’ resisted officers

Sheriff says viral video did not show full story, releases partial bodycam footage

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A video that showed the violent arrest of a Jacksonville man sparked outrage online and a protest against what organizers called a “racial injustice” and accusations of police brutality, according to News 6 partner WJXT-TV.

Sheriff T.K. Waters held a news conference Monday afternoon to respond to claims against the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office regarding accusations of police brutality, stating that the community rushed to a judgment that caused people to reach “faulty and dangerous conclusions.”

According to the attorney for Le’Keian Woods, 24, his client was beaten by several Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office officers after being pulled over for not wearing a sea belt. His Friday arrest was captured on video by a bystander. His Friday arrest was captured on video by a bystander: a video that Waters said did not depict the entire story.

Waters said there was a portion of the video was “intentionally altered” as part of a personal agenda to turn the community against police officers.

Many people were also up in arms about what appeared to look like an officer intentionally kicking Woods while he was in handcuffs sitting on the curb.

Waters wanted to make it clear that the officer did not kick Woods and released footage that would clarify what the officer was doing in the captured moment.

“The detective never kicked the handcuffed Woods,” Mike Shell said. “Body-worn camera footage along with unedited versions of cell phone camera footage on social media, both definitively evidence that the detective never kicked a handcuffed Woods.”

When the video started to circulate online over the weekend, it wasn’t immediately clear what happened and what led to the man’s arrest, but according to a JSO arrest report released on Monday, the incident started when the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office Gang Unit was conducting undercover surveillance in the San Jose area.

The truck Woods was riding in was pulled over by police because it was believed to be involved in a drug deal, and Woods tried to run from officers before he was arrested, JSO said.

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JSO said Woods was the passenger in a Dodge Ram, along with two other people when it was seen parked at a gas station on Powers Avenue next to Wolfson High School. An officer said they saw Woods get into the back of a nearby SUV while it was also parked at the gas station. He then removed money from his pocket and started counting it. The detective who said he witnessed the incident also believed Woods had a gun because his pants were weighing heavy on the right side.

The truck with Woods inside eventually pulled off from the gas station and officers followed in an unmarked vehicle, JSO said, and the driver was seen not wearing a seatbelt.

JSO said detectives tried to pull the truck over a few miles away near Plaza Gate Lane, using the seatbelt violation as justification, but it did not stop. JSO said they kept driving “as if the occupants were looking for a place to run from the vehicle” and the truck ended up on Kensington Gardens Lane at the dead end of an apartment complex. That’s when JSO said Woods jumped out of the front passenger seat and ran through the complex. JSO said Woods was seen holding onto the front of his waistline during the chase which the pursuing detective believed meant he had a gun.

JSO said a detective eventually caught Woods, told him to get on the ground and twice used a stun gun on Woods before he fell face-first onto the pavement. Woods then started to “violently resist” a detective’s attempts to arrest him, according to JSO.

JSO said it took three detectives and a patrol officer to get Woods into handcuffs.

According to the newly released report, one detective hit Woods five times in the face and once in the ribs. Another kneed him four times in the ribs and face, JSO said, while a bystander captured the incident on video. One of the detectives said in the report there were “unintentional knee strikes to Le’Keian’s face during the struggle.”

Woods’ face was left bloodied and his mug shot showed him with two swollen black eyes.

News4JAX went over the details of the arrest report with Woods’ cousin DeQuan. He said his concern was not the treatment Woods’ received from police during the takedown but rather after he was handcuffed.

“My thing is I don’t want to speak on nothing but the fact of after. If they arrested him and he did do anything wrong and they’re doing it…once they put him in handcuffs. My thing is after you detain a man, where is it OK that once he’s detained you’re beating him like a dog?” he said.

Retired JSO Director Tom Hackney, who spoke to News4JAX, said what he read in the report is in line with police training.

“The descriptors is he’s reaching for his waistband common place to carry a firearm and certainly not complying and reaching for that area. It causes the officers to want to gain control of that situation. Sometimes strikes to the body and strikes to the face is what you have available to you,” Hackney said. “Once you gain somebody in handcuffs it’s not the magic handcuffs and it doesn’t stop people from resisting.”

JSO booking photo for LeKeian Woods. (Copyright 2023 by WJXT News4Jax - All rights reserved.)

Jacksonville Sheriff T.K. Waters said the incident is under investigation and eventually, body camera footage will be released, which he said will provide context to the incident.

Woods was charged with armed trafficking in methamphetamine, armed trafficking in cocaine, armed possession of a controlled substance, resisting an officer with violence, altering, destroying, concealing or removing records, and possessing a controlled substance without a prescription. Woods is charged with armed trafficking, but there’s no mention of a gun being recovered, and News4JAX has reached out to JSO for more information.

Woods was also on felony probation for a robbery conviction.

According to Woods’ arrest report, JSO found 43 grams of cocaine powder, 14 grams of crack cocaine, 2.4 grams of fentanyl, 21 grams of meth and four prescription painkillers in the truck he was riding in.

Woods’ attorney appeared in court again Sunday on Woods’ behalf to challenge probable cause on some of the 24-year-old’s counts. After a long discussion, the judge ruled there was no probable cause for the cocaine charge.

When the video surfaced online, organizers called for all officers involved in the incident to be held accountable, a dissolution of the JSO Gang Unit and the implementation of a public safety committee.

The case has drawn intense interest both locally and nationally. State Rep. Tracie Davis (D) said she wants to see the body-worn camera video.

“But we don’t have a timeline for that. See, that needs to be sooner rather than later, once they’ve examined it, to make sure the community knows what happened in that situation. And it’s not pieces, contextual pieces that are that are missing. So the community is able to come up with their own conclusion. You gotta be able to exchange what happened and walk people through and let them know the details as to how and right now, it doesn’t look too good,” Davis said.

Woods’ mother also spoke out at the protest about seeing her son in the viral video being forcefully handled by police.

“When I look at that picture of my son, I felt like Emmitt Till’s mother when she seen her son. He was unrecognizable,” Natassia Woods said.

She said her family plans to fight for justice for her son.

The family said they were planning to hold a news conference at 2 p.m. on Tuesday in front of police headquarters.

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About the Authors:

Digital reporter who has lived in Jacksonville for more than 25 years and focuses on important local issues like education and the environment.

Scott is a multi-Emmy Award Winning Anchor and Reporter, who also hosts the “Going Ringside With The Local Station” Podcast. Scott has been a journalist for 25 years, covering stories including six presidential elections, multiple space shuttle launches and dozens of high-profile murder trials.