The Asheville Police Department is under fire after its officers were caught on tape beating up a North Carolina man that they had accused of jaywalking and trespassing.
Body camera footage from police captured two police officers attacking Johnnie Jermaine Rush last August for walking across a parking lot of a business that was closed for the day, Asheville’s Citizen-Times reports. One of the officers, Chris Hickman, resigned in January once the police department launched an investigation.
Hickman, alongside officer-in-training Verino Ruggiero, can be seen restraining and punching Rush multiple times and even using a stun gun on him twice. Rush can also be heard saying that he cannot breathe, invoking the same words Eric Garner called out just before he was killed by police.
“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,” Police Chief Tammy Hooper said in a statement published on department’s social media accounts.
“Officers know that they must earn the trust of our community by providing fair and respectful service. That very clearly did not happen during the incident depicted and for that I apologize to Mr. Rush, as well as the community,” she said.
Rush explained that he was on his way home after a 13-hour shift at a nearby Cracker Barrel when he crossed the street at an area “Where hundreds of pedestrians cross… without using a crosswalk before and after baseball games,” the Citizen-Times reports. After being harassed by the officers, Rush tried to run and was eventually restrained and beaten. He also claims that the officers were abusive to him while he was in hospital, saying that Hickman even called him a racial slur.
Rush was charged with assault on a government official; and resisting, delaying and obstructing an officer. Those charges were eventually dropped. An investigation against Hickman is currently ongoing, according to the police department.
“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,” Hooper said. “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.”