Christopher Hickman has been charged with Assault by Strangulation, Assault Inflicting Serious Injury and Communicating threats for August 24, 2017 use of force incident. Asheville’s police chief said she will resign if people want her to, in the aftermath of a leaked body-camera video showing one of her former police officers beating a man who was accused of jaywalking.
“I am happy to resign if that will solve the problem,” Chief Tammy Hooper said as hundreds of people expressed their frustration during a Citizen Police Advisory Committee meeting at a local community center Wednesday evening, according to the Asheville Citizen-Times.
The former officer, Christopher Hickman, was charged Thursday with assault and communicating threats, according to the Buncombe County District Attorney’s Office.
The leaked video taken near downtown Asheville shows Hickman, who is white, punching the head of local resident Johnnie Jermaine Rush, who is black, on the night of Aug. 24.
The video begins with Officer Verino Ruggiero warning Rush about repeated jaywalking.
After Rush is given the option of a citation or being arrested, he can be heard cursing out of frustration. Officer Chris Hickman tells Rush to put his hands behind his back. Rush then runs, and Hickman is heard in the video during the chase saying “You are going to get (f*****) up hard core.”
Rush says several times he cannot breathe after being taken to the ground and shocked with a stun gun.
All charges against Rush, including assaulting a government official and jaywalking, have been dropped.
An administrative investigation determined Hickman used excessive force in violation of Asheville Police Department policy.
Hooper met with Hickman on Jan. 5 with plans to fire him, but Hickman resigned first.
Police said they plan to present an investigation into whether Hickman’s actions against Rush were criminal to the district attorney next week.
“This is a human rights issue, and Hickman should’ve been charged from day one,” local Black Lives Matter leader DeLores Venable said during Wednesday’s meeting, per the Citizen-Times report. “If no one would’ve leaked it or said something, we would be in the dark.”
Hooper issued a public apology March 1, saying, “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.”
Town leaders agreed to release personnel information on Hickman that provides more detail on the case after a closed meeting on Monday.
A supervising officer who responded to the scene of the incident to evaluate Hickman’s use of force failed to convey findings in a timely manner, the report said, “despite being told by Hickman that he struck Mr. Rush in the head with his Taser, and despite Mr. Rush saying that he was choked.”
The supervisor was disciplined and required to undergo further training.
Hooper also ordered a review of more than 58 hours worth of footage from Hickman’s body-camera, which “revealed four other instances where Hickman displayed discourteous and rude conduct to members of the public.”
The city also filed a petition Monday asking for more body-camera recordings of the incident to be released on belief that doing so “is necessary to provide the public with full disclosure of the circumstances surrounding the arrest” and “to provide the public with all relevant information to understand the events that transpired.”