White cop arrested for beating, choking, and Tasing black jaywalker

Violet Powell
March 10, 2018

Body camera footage from officer Chris Hickman, who was with his trainee Verino Ruggiero, shows that Rush said he was exhausted and told officers to stop harassing him, before the situation escalated to an arrest for jaywalking and trespassing on a parking lot.

Documents released by a North Carolina city show its police department did not properly handle an investigation of the beating of a black man accused of jaywalking by a white officer a year ago. The charges detailed Thursday night against Hickman - who resigned from the police force in January - are one count each of assault by strangulation, assault inflicting serious injury, and communicating threats.

Who leaked that bodycam video to the Citizen Times newspaper?

Before the newspaper's release on February 28 of that video, showing Officer Chris Hickman tasering and beating Johnnie Jermaine Rush, the state's investigative unit expressed little interest in pursuing the case from August 25, says Casey Blake, the paper's community engagement editor.

"(He) thinks it's amusing", Hickman can be heard saying during the chase. "I just got off of work".

Rush responds, "It doesn't matter to me, man".

"All I'm trying to do is go home, man".

At several points, while pinned to the ground, Rush cried, "I can't breathe!"

An arrest warrant for Hickman notes that he struck Rush multiple times, causing abrasions and swelling to his head.

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On the day Rush was approached by the officers, he was walking home after the end of his dishwashing shift at a Cracker Barrel restaurant, according to the arrest report.

Late Wednesday, at a local police advisory meeting packed with community members, Police Chief Tammy Hooper reportedly said she was "happy to resign" if that would quell the public discontent. "I'm exhausted!" The video then shows Hickman tasering Rush, choking him, beating his skull.

The camera footage also shows Hickman hitting Rush on the head over and over with a closed fist, and Rush crying out in pain as he is shocked with a Taser.

In a statement, police later apologized to Rush for not providing "fair and respectful service" and characterized Hickman's actions as "unacceptable and contrary" to the department's vision.

Hickman was forced to resign in January and is now under criminal investigation for second-degree assault.

The City Council issued a statement Wednesday saying: "we are furious that no one thought that we - Asheville's elected leaders - needed to know about this incident".

The city also filed a petition Monday asking for more body-camera recordings of the incident to be released on belief that doing so "is necessary to provide the public with full disclosure of the circumstances surrounding the arrest" and "to provide the public with all relevant information to understand the events that transpired". Only about 12 percent of the population is black.

Of the story, which was picked up by the New York Times and other national outlets, Blake says: "It's a big one for us and it's still developing".

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