Newly released body cam footage is backing up one citizen’s claims of excessive force by police in Asheville, NC. The footage from an August 2017 arrest for jaywalking shows the rough arrest of Johnnie Jermaine Rush accused of jaywalking. In January, law enforcement launched an investigation into the claim to determine whether the officer used excessive force while conducting the arrest.
During the August 24 encounter, Officer Chris Hickman is seen beating on the 33-year-old Rush striking him in the head during a jaywalking arrest. Rush is heard on the body cam footage pleading with the officer that he cannot breathe while being restrained. Rush is also Tasered twice while being held on the ground.
The Citizen Times reports:
According to a memo obtained by the Citizen Times, Hickman resigned sometime before January 19. It was confirmed by the police chief that he was no longer with the department.
Rush, who is Black, alleges that the confrontation began as he was returning from a 13-hour shift at a local restaurant. While trying to make it home in one piece, Rush is approached by then officer-in-training, Verino Ruggiero, who says in the video he warned Rush about the minor non-violent offense.
Ruggiero is then seen on video saying that Rush didn’t use the crosswalk four times in a row and “walked through the parking lot of a business that was closed at the time” according to the Citizen Times. For those offenses Ruggiero tells Rush that he can either get a ticket or carted off to jail.
“It doesn’t matter to me, man,” Rush says on the body cam, frustrated. “Do what you have got to do, besides keep harassing me.”
As the encounter escalates Rush is heard cursing and complaining about police harassment. Rush says that the officers have nothing better to do than bother him over jaywalking.
Ready to move on with the encounter, Officer Hickman approaches Rush and tells him to place his hands behind his back. At that point Rush lives up to his name and rushes away from police forcing Hickman to break a sweat and chase him.
“You know what’s funny, is you’re going to get f***** up hardcore,” says Hickman before taking Rush to the ground, confirming allegations of premeditation.
Hickman and another officer are then seen on the body cam footage pushing Rush to the ground as he complains of not being able to breathe. The officers ignore his pleas and force his hands behind his back. Rush complains that he is unable to place his hands behind his back. Upset over the lack of compliance, Hickman proceeds to beat Rush over the head and subsequently Tasers him twice. Rush is heard yelling for help during the ordeal.
Hickman taunts Rush saying, “What the f*** is wrong with you?”
In the end, Rush is transported to the hospital for the injuries he sustained at the hands of Asheville cops. At the hospital Hickman is alleged to have been abusive to Rush and used racial slurs according to Rush.
Rush faced several charges at the time of the rest but all charges against him were dismissed in September by the Buncombe County District Attorney’s Office. Rush was initially charged with assault on a government official; resisting, delaying and obstructing an officer, trespass and traffic offenses, police records show.
The Asheville police chief, Tammy Hooper, said that the DA and herself requested the State Bureau of Investigation to initiate a criminal inquiry into the arrest but the bureau declined. The bureau did not offer a reason for declining.
Hooper reluctantly initiated an internal investigation and the results found was that Hickman was suspected of simple assault. Ruggiero is reportedly not under investigation.
A public version of the report that was once available online was no longer available Wednesday afternoon.
Police body camera video is not considered public record.
Hooper released an official statement Thursday morning 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 n improving community trust. Officers know that they must earn the trust of our community by providing fair and respectful service. That very clearly did not happen during an incident depicted and for that I apologize to Mr. Rush, as well as the community.
It is the policy of the Asheville Police Department to review all instances of use of force and to take swift and immediate action upon any use of unwarranted or excessive force. The officer is no longer employed by the Asheville Police Department and a criminal investigation is underway that will be submitted to the District Attorney.”