An Asheville Police Department officer repeatedly punched a jaywalking suspect in the head and used a Taser on the man in August 2017, according to a bombshell Asheville Citizen-Times report published online Wednesday night that includes body cam video showing the officer’s actions.
Reporter Joel Burgess writes that the Asheville Police Department is investigating whether the officer, Chris Hickman, used excessive force in the incident. Hickman resigned from the Police Department, according to the newspaper report.
In the video, Johnnie Jermaine Rush is seen talking to another officer after being stopped for jaywalking near McCormick Field. The conversation grows heated, and 33-year-old Rush runs from the officers, who tackle him in a scuffle. Rush can be heard telling officers he can’t breathe as Hickman fires a Taser twice and can be seen hitting Rush in the head with his fist as he’s being restrained.
Asheville Police Department Chief Tammy Hooper declined to talk to the newspaper about the incident, which remains under investigation, according to the story.
Last year, Hooper was the center of controversy for the way she brought a request for $1 million more in department funding forward to Asheville City Council. She’s also faced criticism for her department’s handling of local Black Lives Matter protests. Hooper has also faced ongoing scrutiny over her department’s record of racial disparity in traffic stops. (The Asheville Blade has done an excellent job of following these issues. Check out the reporting of David Forbes there.)
Is there anything we can do as a community to let Mr. Rush know he is supported and that this behavior is outrageous?