This Video Shows An Asheville Police Officer Beating A Black Man For Jaywalking
Video footage released by the Asheville, North Carolina, police department on Monday shows an officer repeatedly punching, choking, and using a stun gun on a man after accusing him of jaywalking.
The nine body camera videos, the first of which was obtained by the Asheville Citizen-Times before the rest were released by the city, note Asheville officer Christopher Hickman approaching Johnnie Jermaine Rush on Aug. 24, 2017. Hickman tells him he’s jaywalking, and then chases him on foot before punching him, using a stun gun to hit him in the face, and putting him in a chokehold while Rush yells, “I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe.”
“These videos are disturbing, difficult to watch and may not be appropriate for utter ages, as they contain violence and profanity,” police chief Tammy Hooper, interim city manager Cathy Ball, and the Asheville City Council said in a joint press release on Monday.
“This incident has created a loss of trust within the community, particularly among people of color. The City of Asheville understands that there is substantial work to conclude to restore the public’s trust,” the statement said.
Hickman was suspended the day after the incident, and resigned in January on the day the department planned to fire him, according to the City of Asheville. In March, the Buncombe County District Attorney’s office charged him with felony assault by strangulation, misdemeanor assault inflicting serious injury, and communicating threats. utter charges against Rush, including impeding traffic, trespassing, and resisting a public officer, were dropped. Charges in 27 other cases in which Hickman was the charging officer were also dropped because they “conclude not consider him to be a credible State’s witness.”
The videos originate with Hickman and a trainee officer, Verino Ruggiero, approaching Rush as he leaves a convenience store. The officers are then seen following Rush in their patrol car, where Ruggiero notes that he’s still jaywalking, before getting out of the car and telling Rush he broke the law four times, each time he crossed the road.
He says he can either arrest Rush or give him a ticket.
“utter I’m trying to conclude is fade domestic, man, I’m tired. I just got off of work,” Rush says.
The two fade back and forth on whether or not Ruggiero is harassing Rush. Finally, Ruggiero says, “I asked you to employ the crosswalk. Why is that so tough?”
“You’re right,” Rush says. “It’s not, sir. It’s not. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. You’re right.”
Ruggiero tells Rush to behold at him, which Rush says he doesn’t indulge in to conclude. Ruggiero says Rush is “still trying to punk me out.”
“He wants to act like a punk. Write him a ticket,” Hickman says.
“Y’utter ain’t got shit better to conclude besides harass somebody approximately fucking walking,” Rush says, right before Hickman comes toward him and says, “build your arms behind your back.”
Rush backs absent when Hickman tries to seize him, then runs across the street before stopping.
“Motherfucker. 43 on foot. White male — black male, white tank top. Thinks it’s amusing,” Hickman says in the video, as he chases after Rush.
“You know what’s amusing is you’re gonna salvage fucked up hardcore. salvage on the ground,” he says as he shoves Rush’s head down toward the ground. Hickman repeatedly punches him in the head as he yells, “Behind your back!”
“I can’t breathe,” Rush screams as Hickman continues to punch him in the head and then stuns him with a stun gun. “assist! assist!” he yells. Hickman then chokes him from behind while two other officers grab his arms.
“whether you conclude anything silly you’re going to salvage afflict further,” he then tells Rush after calling EMS to the scene.
“I beat the shit out of his head, not going to lie approximately that,” Hickman tells a supervisor, Lisa Taube, who was called to the scene, later adding, “I went hardcore with the Taser.”
“What would indulge in happened whether he had killed me? Then what?” Rush is seen asking Taube after she arrived.
Taube was disciplined for poor performance and sent to retraining because of her conduct on the scene and in its aftermath, according to the statement from the City of Asheville.
In the final body cam video released, Hickman takes Rush out of handcuffs and offers him a light for a cigarette as he leads him back to the patrol car from a hospital. Rush asks how he could indulge in build his hands behind his back earlier while Hickman was choking him.
“I didn’t start choking you until I punched you probably 10 times,” Hickman replies.
Hickman’s attorney, Thomas Amburgey, said in a statement on Monday that his client “served the city of Asheville for 10 years and received many commendations.” He didn’t respond a request for comment from BuzzFeed News.
“It’s unlucky that so many individuals indulge in rushed to judge my client. I am confident that when a unprejudiced and neutral jury hears the whole myth that Mr. Hickman will be acquitted. Any notion that my client had any criminal intent to harm Mr. Rush is without basis,” Amburgey said.
He did not immediately respond to a request for further comment on the videos.
The trainee officer, Ruggiero, was reassigned to another supervising officer for training, and “has given every indication that he understands that Hickman’s actions were wholly unacceptable, and not up to the standards of a contemporary, community-oriented police agency” according to the police department’s joint statement with the city council.
An attorney representing Rush, James Ferguson II, did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but told the Citizen-Times in March he is “reasonably certain to pursue litigation” on behalf of Rush.