10 March, 2018
A former Asheville Police Department officer facing criminal charges after body camera footage appears to show him beating a man suspected of jaywalking is expected to be in court today.
The leaked video taken near downtown Asheville shows former Officer Chris Hickman, who is white, punching the head of local resident Johnnie Jermaine Rush, who is black, on the night of August 24. Hickman was charged with assault by strangulation, assault inflicting serious injury and communicating threats.
It didn't take long for anger and frustration to surface at a meeting of Asheville's Citizen Police Advisory Committee.
Johnnie Jermaine Rush recalled his encounter with Officer Chris Hickman and Verino Ruggiero, his colleague which took place on the night of the 24 of February.
"When it's all said and done, just like every time, I have been ready and willing come to the table with whoever wants to do the work that's needed to get us past this", Hooper said.
"It doesn't matter, man", Rush replied.
"He never went back on the streets", she said of Hickman, before her remarks were cut short by audience interruptions.
Rush told the Citizen Times that he then stopped, before being tackled to the ground by the officers.
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. The public did not know the police chief quietly oversaw an internal investigation and was about to fire the officer when he quit in January.
UPDATE: Former Asheville Police Officer Charged For August Beating
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.
While the Federal Bureau of Investigation announced Wednesday that it had opened an investigation of Hickman's actions, Ruggiero is reportedly not being investigated in connection with Rush's beating and arrest.
Hickman's arrest comes two months after he resigned from the Asheville Police Department and more than six months since he allegedly assaulted Rush in August. The FBI is now investigating. He resigned instead at the beginning of a January meeting where he was scheduled to be terminated.
Hickman then calls for an ambulance for Rush before telling him: "All this over you getting a ticket?"
Prior to the Thursday announcement, the City of Asheville had filed a petition to have the body camera footage released. Only about 12 percent of the population is black.
Hooper issued a public apology March 1, saying, "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".
Asheville Mayor Esther Manheimer was also in attendance, but she did not address the public.
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