Police officer faces charges after beating, choking and tasing suspected jaywalker

Police officer faces charges after beating, choking and tasing suspected jaywalker

On Thursday, North Carolina's Buncombe County District Attorney Todd Williams announced that charges were filed against a former Asheville police officer who had repeatedly punched and tased a man accused of jaywalking.

On August 24, Johnnie Rush was on his way home from a 13-hour shift as a dishwasher at a local Cracker Barrel restaurant shortly after midnight when he was stopped by two police officers.

The documents show a supervisor responded to the use of force against Rush, but did not send the information to superiors immediately.

"He never went back on the streets", she said of Hickman, before her remarks were cut short by audience interruptions.

At one point Rush attempts to run, and Hickman says "You know what's amusing is you're going to get f--ed up hardcore".

"I've got two options, I can either arrest you or write you a ticket", Ruggiero says.

"It doesn't matter, man", Rush replied.

As officers held Rush on the ground and handcuffed him, Rush is heard on the video screaming in pain and yelling, "I can't breathe!" Fearing what would come next, Rush fled from the officers. "You're gonna get f-- up hardcore".

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Body camera footage from officer Chris Hickman, who was with his trainee Verino Ruggiero, shows that Rush said he was exhausted and told officers to stop harassing him, before the situation escalated to an arrest for jaywalking and trespassing on a parking lot. The video provides no evidence to support any of these claims.

An arrest warrant for Hickman notes that he struck Rush multiple times, causing abrasions and swelling to his head.

Police records indicate that Rush was later charged with impeding traffic, second-degree trespass, resisting a public officer, and assault on a government official, though these charges were eventually dismissed. 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.

The administrative investigations revealed Hickman had used excessive force during the arrest and he had engaged in "rude and discourteous behavior" on four other occasions with other members of the public, according to police records.

Federal Bureau of Investigation agents from the Charlotte office interviewed Rush in January.

Asheville police chief Tammy Hooper said that she would resign if it helped assuage outrage that has erupted over the video, though her offer comes after there has been difficulty finding someone to investigate the case. CBS News was unable to reach Hickman or Rush.

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. The Asheville, North Carolina, newspaper is not saying much. Someone who is captured on a police cam can request to view it in private but cannot publish the footage.

The city did not provide contact information for Hickman. Smith described Rush as hardworking and eager to learn, with an interest in construction and carpentry.

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