Hickman case news: pic.twitter.com/ayewjg9g8f— Buncombe County DA (@BuncombeCoDA) March 9, 2018
Authorities have criminally charged and arrested former Asheville police officer Chris Hickman – the cop who was seen brutally assaulting an African-American man, later identified as Johnnie Jermaine Rush, for allegedly jaywalking in viral body cam footage.
The 31-year-old resigned from his post in January and is reportedly facing charges of felony assault by strangulation, misdemeanor assault inflicting serious injury and communicating threats.
He was released on a $10,000 unsecured bond, according to the Citizen Times.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation is looking into the beating of Johnnie Rush, who was attacked by a police officer in Asheville, North Carolina, for allegedly jaywalking. The Asheville Police Department is also conducting an investigation into the beating.
Recent local media coverage publicized the incident, which occurred last August, sparking outrage.
The FBI's decision to conduct an investigation into the incident signifies it is treating the event with the gravity it deserves. Other FBI investigations following violent policing incidents have revealed that certain departments cultivate systemic racism in their policing tactics. It is too early to say whether the Asheville beating reflects departmental bias.
Police body camera video obtained by @asheville shows Officer Chris Hickman beating Johnnie Jermaine Rush with punches to the head while Rush was being restrained by Hickman and another officer. https://t.co/2wJgl7upal pic.twitter.com/7jLfWWEBOL— Angie Wilhelm (@AngelaMWilhelm) March 1, 2018
There seems to be no end in sight for police brutality, particularly against African-Americans.
An Asheville, North Carolina, media outlet released body camera footage showing a white cop beating a black man who was accused of jaywalking, HuffPost reports.
While the incident is still under investigation, the disturbing and graphic footage has prompted city officials to issue apologies to the victim and the community at large.
In the video, 33-year-old Johnnie Rush was chased by officers and thrown to the ground. One of the cops proceeded to shock him with his Taser and beat him as he shouted out for help in agony.
Rush was stopped by officers Verino Ruggiero and Chris Hickman as he was passing through a parking lot in August 2017. He was headed home after finishing his shift as a dishwasher at a local Cracker Barrel restaurant.
The two white officers accused the man of trespassing and jaywalking as the parking lot he was walking through was attached to a business that was closed.
“All I’m trying to do is go home, man. I’m tired. I just got off of work,” Rush said to Ruggiero in the video.
“I’ve got two options: I can either arrest you or write you a ticket,” Ruggiero responded.
“It doesn’t matter, man. Do what you have got to do, besides keep harassing me, man,” Rush said.
“That’s all in your mind,” Hickman, whose bodycam footage captured the incident, said.
Rush said a swear word, and then was ordered by Hickman to put his hands behind his back. At that point, he began to run from the officers.
Hickman chased Rush with his stun gun drawn and said, “You know what’s funny is you’re going to get f***ed up hardcore.”
The cop began throwing jabs to Rush’s head as he repeatedly said, “I can’t breathe.”
Eventually, Rush was taken to a nearby hospital where he claims Hickman continued his abuse and used a racial slur. After receiving treatment, Rush was charged with assaulting a government official, resisting arrest, trespassing, and traffic offenses. The charges were later dropped as the district attorney’s office began investigating.
Buncombe County District Attorney Todd Williams told local ABC affiliate WLOS that he was shown the video in the first place to determine whether Rush had committed a crime, not to decide if there had been excessive force used. However, after being shown the video again in December, Williams recommended a criminal investigation into Hickman’s conduct by January.
After the Asheville Citizen-Times published the gut-wrenching video, Mayor Esther Manheimer and Police Chief Tammy Hooper apologized to Rush in separate statements.
“The acts demonstrated in this video are unacceptable and contrary to the Department’s vision and the progress we have made in the last several years in improving community trust,” Hooper said. “Officers know that they must earn the trust of our community by providing fair and respectful service. That very clearly did not happen during the incident depicted and for that I apologize to Mr. Rush, as well as the community.”
Statement from Chief Hooper regarding the video on @asheville. #The acts demonstrated in this video are unacceptable and contrary to the Department's vision and the progress we have made in the last several years in improving community trust..." pic.twitter.com/9fNSeKIiMR— Asheville Police (@AshevillePolice) March 1, 2018
Manheimer noted that the city council just barely learned of the incident through the local media coverage this week, despite it occurring last August.
"As your Mayor, I want there to be a clear message that there must be an end to police abuse of power," Manheimer said. I support APD Chief Hooper in her efforts to emphasize de-escalation. The acts of these officers do not represent the professional and fair treatment a vast majority of our officers show in the course of their duties day in and day out."
She added: "We are better than this. We MUST uphold ourselves to the highest standards and practices."
The status of Ruggiero’s employment is currently unclear, but Hickman left the department on Jan. 5.
Given the current state of relations between law enforcement and the nation's black population, Rush running from the officers was not a great idea. However, considering how many shooting deaths have resulted from routine traffic stops due to trigger-happy cops, it's likely that Rush feared for his life in that moment and his instinct to run outweighed his better judgment.
Although he knew he had done nothing wrong, the same could be said for the growing list of African-Americans, including Philando Castile, Sandra Bland, and Alton Sterling, whose lives were cut short for trivial reasons that can be boiled down to sheer systemic racism.
It's quite difficult to trust police officers when you're scared any encounter with them could be a matter of life and death. Hickman's despicable actions caught on tape prove just how quickly a simple traffic stop can escalate into an explosive confrontation.
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