An Asheville, North Carolina, news outlet published disturbing bodycam footage this week showing a white police officer beating a black resident, prompting public apologies from city officials who are continuing to investigate the incident.
The graphic video shows officers chasing Johnnie Rush, 33, throwing him to the ground, shocking him with a stun gun and beating him as he cries out in pain and shouts for help. Photos that Rush provided to the Asheville Citizen-Times show his bandaged and swollen head and other injuries.
Officer Chris Hickman and officer-in-training Verino Ruggiero, who are white, stopped Rush in a parking lot he was passing through in late August 2017 on his way home from a dishwashing shift at a Cracker Barrel restaurant. The officers claimed Rush was trespassing and jaywalking because the parking lot was attached to a business that was closed for the night.
“All I’m trying to do is go home, man. I’m tired. I just got off of work,” Rush is heard saying to Ruggiero in the footage, recorded by Hickman’s body camera.
“I’ve got two options: I can either arrest you or write you a ticket,” Ruggiero responds.
“It doesn’t matter, man. Do what you have got to do, besides keep harassing me, man,” Rush says.
“That’s all in your mind,” Hickman is heard saying.
When Rush curses, Hickman order him to put his hands behind his back. Rush then attempts to run from the officers.
As he chases Rush with a stun gun, Hickman says, “You know what’s funny is you’re going to get fucked up hardcore.”
Hickman then pushes Rush to the ground and repeatedly punches his head. At least two other officers can be seen in the video.
“I can’t breathe,” Rush says multiple times.
Rush told the Citizen-Times he was later taken to a hospital, where he said Hickman used a racial slur and was abusive.
Rush was arrested and charged with assaulting a government official, resisting arrest, trespassing and traffic offenses. Those charges were dropped soon after, and the district attorney’s office began investigating, according to the Asheville Police Department.
Yet Buncombe County District Attorney Todd Williams told local ABC affiliate WLOS that he was initially shown the video to determine whether Rush had committed a crime — not to determine whether the officers had used excessive force. Asheville police said Williams was shown the video again in December. In January, the district attorney recommended a criminal investigation into Hickman’s behavior.
I want there to be a clear message that there must be an end to police abuse of power. We are better than this.
–Asheville Mayor Esther Manheimer
Asheville Mayor Esther Manheimer and Police Chief Tammy Hooper both apologized to Rush in separate statements on Thursday and promised a transparent investigation.
SOURCE: Sara Boboltz