Body camera video was recently released showing Asheville, North Carolina police officers brutally beating, tasing, and arresting Johnnie Jermaine Rush.
In the video obtained by The Citizen Times, officer Chris Hickman punches Rush several times in the head and taunts him as Rush is being restrained by another officer during the August, 2017 incident.
In January, police launched a criminal investigation into whether Hickman used excessive force in the arrest of Rush, who was beaten and arrested for jaywalking and trespassing after he walked across the parking lot of a business that was closed for the day.
Hickman resigned some time before Jan. 19, according to a department memo.
In the body camera video, Hickman is with his officer-in-training, Verino Ruggiero, in their cruiser, and they are complaining about Rush jaywalking after he had been warned.
They decided to confront him about the jaywalking at night when there is almost no traffic.
Rush explained to the officers that he just wanted to get home after working a 13 hour shift at Cracker Barrel, but the officers didn’t care.
Ruggiero confronted Rush first and seemed to assume Rush was only jaywalking to challenge his authority.
“All I’m trying to do is go home, man. I‘m tired. I just got off work,” Rush responds.
“You just committed four crimes in a row,” Ruggiero says. “I was polite with you and asked you [to] use the crosswalk. I know what you’re doing man, you think I’m a punk. Guess what? I’m not.”
“I’ve got two options: I can either arrest you or write you a ticket,” Ruggiero added.
“It doesn’t matter to me, man,” Rush responds. “Do what you have got to do, besides keep harassing me.”
Hickman prepares to arrest him for jaywalking and tells him to put his hands behind his back. Then Rush runs away.
Hickman chases Rush and yells, “You know what’s funny is you’re going to get fucked up hardcore,” as he points his taser at him.
The officers push Rush to the ground and Hickman starts punching him repeatedly in the head.
The officers continue to hit and tase Rush as he is being handcuffed and arrested.
Rush seems to say something inaudible, because Hickman starts taunting him, suggesting it is the victim’s fault that police assaulted him.
“Oh it’s a ‘please’ now is it?” Hickman said. “After all that? It was a ticket! And you wanted to act like this? What’s wrong with you? What the fuck is wrong with you?”
“Do anything stupid and you’re going to get hurt further,” Hickman said.
“You didn’t have to punch me in my face for no reason,” Rush told him.
“You didn’t have to make me,” Hickman responded, refusing to take accountability for his own criminal actions. “Don’t look at me with your spitty blood face.”
Hickman put Rush in the police car and again blamed the victim for being assaulted, “He got blood all over me from his face. Fucking asshole.”
Hickman then lied to other officers who arrived on scene, telling them Rush tried to grab his taser.
Rush was taken to the hospital after the assault. He told The Citizen Times that Hickman continued to be verbally abusive while there, even using racial slurs.
Rush was charged with assault on a government official, resisting, delaying and obstructing an officer, trespass and traffic offenses, but those charges were all thrown out by the Buncombe County District Attorney’s Office in September.
After reviewing the video, Police Chief Tammy Hooper said both she and District Attorney Todd Williams asked the State Bureau of Investigation to start a criminal investigation, but the bureau declined.
Williams then requested that another agency take up the case, “When that was turned down, I felt that a criminal investigation was still required,” he said Wednesday.
Hooper also issued a statement apologizing to Rush, calling the behavior Hickman displayed “unacceptable.”
Statement from Chief Hooper regarding the video on @asheville. #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…” pic.twitter.com/9fNSeKIiMR
— Asheville Police (@AshevillePolice) March 1, 2018
Asheville Mayor, Esther Manheimer, said that she and the City Council are outraged by the way police assaulted Rush. She also issued an apology statement:
“On behalf of City Council, I apologize to Mr. Rush, an African American resident, regarding his treatment by Asheville Police on Aug. 24, 2017,” Manheimer said. “The City Council first learned, last night, from local media, about a highly disturbing video of an Asheville Police Officer assaulting Mr. Rush over jaywalking on Aug. 24, 2017.”
“The City Council and I immediately contacted City administration to express our outrage at the treatment of Mr. Rush and our outrage of not being informed about the actions of APD officers. The Council is calling for a review of the violent acts against a city resident and what swift and immediate action was taken by APD upon review of the video footage. We will have accountability and, above all, transparency,” the statement continued. “As your Mayor, I want there to be a clear message that there must be an end to police abuse of power. I support APD Chief Hooper in her efforts to emphasize de-escalation. The acts of these officers do not represent the professional and fair treatment a vast majority of our officers show in the course of their duties day in and day out.”