In Asheville, North Carolina, don’t get caught jaywalking, especially if you’re Black. In August 2017, Johnnie Jermaine Rush was cornered by Officer Christopher Hickman and a trainee officer where Hickman lost his cool and viciously beat and choked the man as he was on his way home from work, leading to Hickman facing a felony assault charge.
Video obtained by the Asheville Citizen-Times earlier this year reveals that Hickman and trainee officer Verino Ruggiero tailing Rush outside of a convenience store then approaching him about his jaywalking. Rush tried reasoning with the police officers but Hickman and Ruggiero were determined to make the most of the moment. While Rush did use profanity towards the cops and ran off, he eventually stopped but Hickman had decided to unleash his assault just the same.
By way of a joint letter from Asheville City Council, Interim City Manager Cathy Ball, and Chief Tammy Hooper, the footage from other police cameras was released in a bid of rebuilding trust and accountability:
These videos are disturbing, difficult to watch and may not be appropriate for all ages, as they contain violence and profanity. However, in the interest of public accountability and transparency, the City of Asheville petitioned the Buncombe County Superior Court to release the body-worn camera videos captured the night of August 24 and early morning of August 25, 2017.
This incident has created a loss of trust within the community, particularly among people of color. The City of Asheville understands that there is substantial work to do to restore the public’s trust. We have heard your concerns and feedback and we are committed to moving forward with the help of the community. We are encouraged by the community’s support as we implement changes towards this goal.
Rush has retained the services of a civil rights attorney in Asheville but has yet to publicly comment about the matter. Hickman’s trial continues on through June 13.
A portion of the footage, which we must warn is disturbing, can be found below.