Police body camera video published by the Asheville Citizen Times on Wednesday has caused widespread public outcry over the beating and torture of an African American man accused of jaywalking and trespassing in a vacant parking lot in Asheville, North Carolina past year by white police officers.
Christopher William Hickman has been charged with Assault by strangulation, Assault inflicting serious injury, and Communicating threats, according to the Buncombe County District Attorney's Office.
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.
The charges came after the video, which was obtained by The Citizen Times and released in a story last month, caused an outcry in Asheville, the county seat of Buncombe County and the largest city in Western North Carolina. Then he yelled at Rush, "You know what's amusing is you're going to get f-- up hardcore on the ground".
"I beat the s**t out of his head", Hickman says later to another officer.
The pedestrian said he couldn't breathe as Hickman choked him, repeatedly hit him over the head and handcuffed him. State investigators say they are working with the FBI to investigate Hickman's behavior.
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In particular, it was the investigation into Hickman, who's white, that was brought up the most.
Although the beating occurred in August, the public was not informed of the incident until a source provided the body camera footage to the Citizen Times this week. Rush runs, and the officers chase him, eventually tackling him to the ground. The video shows Verino Ruggiero, then an officer-in-training, confronting the 33-year-old Rush for allegedly walking through the parking lot of a business that was closed for the night, and failing to use a crosswalk while crossing the street near a baseball stadium. "I'm not going to lie about that", Hickman is heard saying.
Asheville city authorities say that Hickman was forced to hand in his gun and badge the day after the beating in August, and resigned in January before he could be fired as the result of an internal investigation.
A request made by Police Chief Tammy Hooper for the State Bureau of Investigation to investigate the beating of Johnnie Rush was rejected. Assault charges against Rush were dropped soon after he filed an excessive force complaint. He said 58 hours of footage was reviewed and "revealed four other instances where Hickman displayed discourteous and rude conduct to members of the public". The warrant said Rush lost consciousness when Hickman placed his arm on his throat and applied pressure.
Hickman resigned from the department sometime before January 19, according to a memo obtained by the Citizen Times.
During the meeting, Hooper repeated an apology to the community she first publicly issued on March 1, saying, "I am happy to resign if that will solve the problem". "If no one would've leaked it [the video] or said something, we would be in the dark".