Body camera video showing a black man being Tasered and beaten during a confrontation with two white police officers who accused him of jaywalking has sent shock waves through the western North Carolina city of Asheville, forcing one of the officers to resign, prompting a federal investigation and leading the city's police chief to volunteer to step down.
Christopher Hickman was charged late Thursday with assault by strangulation, assault inflicting serious injury and communicating threats, according to the Buncombe County District Attorney's Office. The city released the documents after police camera video was given to the Asheville Citizen-Times.
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.
"I beat the s**t out of his head", Hickman says later to another officer.
"It doesn't matter, man", Rush replied.
"I'm not going to lie about that", Hickman later says.
Video of the encounter shows Rush telling Hickman and a police trainee that he just finished a 13-hour shift at a nearby Cracker Barrel and was stopped by the trainee in the parking lot.
An arrest warrant for Hickman notes that he struck Rush multiple times, causing abrasions and swelling to his head.
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Rush later told the newspaper that he stopped running shortly after taking off. Rush and Ruggiero quickly take him to the ground, the footage shows, and subdue him.
In the ensuring altercation, Hickman is seen repeatedly punching Rush in the face, as Rush says, "I can't breathe".
Rush is then heard screaming for help several times as a stun gun is deployed.
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 criminal investigation into Hickman's actions did not start until after he resigned, and wrapped up a week after the video of the beating was leaked to the Asheville Citizen-Times, which first published it and made the incident public. Hooper was asked whether she would do the same at last night's meeting, and she responded by saying she'd resign if people thought it would fix the problem.
Hickman then calls for an ambulance for Rush before telling him: "All this over you getting a ticket?"
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". Asheville's population of almost 90,000 is about 82 percent white and 12 percent black.
"The issue is a human rights issue", one person said.
"We are angry that Johnnie Rush was attacked, beaten, choked and tased by a white police officer in violation of City policy and common decency", the statement read.