Christopher Hickman, 31, a senior police officer with the Ashville Police Department, has been charged after leaked bodycam footage shows him hitting and using a Taser on a man suspected of jaywalking. He will also face preliminary charges of assault.
Hickman, a white former North Carolina police officer, was captured on body camera video in the early morning hours of August 25, 2017, hitting, using a stun gun, and threatening an African-American man he stopped for jaywalking.
The leaked video footage shows Hickman exchanging words with Johnnie Rush, then 32, who just ended a 13-hour shift as a dishwasher at a Cracker Barrel restaurant and was heading home.
He was initially confronted by Verino Ruggiero, an officer in training. Ruggiero reminded Rush that he was warned about jaywalking before.
“All I’m trying to do is go home, man. I‘m tired. I just got off work,” Rush replied.
Ruggiero gave Rush two options: “I can either arrest you or write you a ticket.”
“It doesn’t matter to me, man,” Rush said. “Do what you have got to do, besides keep harassing me.”
Rush cursed in exasperation. At that point, Hickman told him to put his hands behind his back. Rush then ran. As he’s being chased, Hickman says, “[He] thinks it’s funny. You know what’s funny is you’re gonna get f***ed up hardcore.”
Rush stops but is then tackled and restrained by Hickman and at least one other officer. Hickman then punches him several times in the head, shoots him with a stun gun twice, and chocks him while restrained. Rush repeatedly yells, “I can’t breathe!” and calls for help.
Later in the video, Hickman says to another officer, “”I beat the s**t out of his head. Not gonna lie about that.”
Rush Taken to Hospital, Files Complaint about Christopher Hickman
After the altercation, Rush was taken to hospital and maintains that while there, Hickman was abusive to him and used a racial slur.
Rush was charged with assault on a government official; resisting, delaying and obstructing an officer, trespass and traffic offenses. Those charges were dismissed by the Buncombe County District Attorney’s Office on Sept. 18.
He also filed a complaint with police the same day of the altercation, alleging Hickman used excessive force.
Police Chief Tammy Hooper watched the body camera footage and ordered Hickman to turn in his badge and gun. He was placed on administrative duty after Rush filed the complaint.
After the charges against Hickman were dismissed, officials went back and reviewed 58 hours of Hickman’s body camera footage and discovered four other instances where he displayed “discourteous and rude conduct to members of the public.”
In January, Hooper went to fire Hickman, but Hickman resigned first.
On Thursday, March 8, a warrant against Hickman was issued by Chief Magistrate D.L. Cowan on charges of assault by strangulation, assault inflicting serious injury, and communicating threats.
Hickman case news: pic.twitter.com/ayewjg9g8f
— Buncombe County DA (@BuncombeCoDA) March 9, 2018
Hickman has been taken into custody. It is not known whether or not he has an attorney.
The FBI launched an investigation into the incident