APD beating caught on camera sparks outrage

A man seen being beaten by Asheville police officers still gets emotional talking about the incident, months after it...

Posted: Mar 2, 2018 1:59 PM
Updated: Mar 2, 2018 1:59 PM

A man seen being beaten by Asheville police officers still gets emotional talking about the incident, months after it happened.

Johnnie Rush said he just wants to know why the officer did what he did.

Police body camera video showed a strong use of force by an Asheville police officer during the jaywalking arrest near the corner of Biltmore and Short Coxe avenues.

In the video, an officer can be seen punching Rush in the face several times as he was being restrained and arrested. The video also shows Rush getting tased after he fled from police.

The incident took place in August but is just coming to light after the Asheville Citizen-Times obtained the video and reported the story Wednesday, Feb. 28.

"Put your hands behind your back."

"I can't breath, I can't breath."

Officer Chris Hickman is then seen punching Rush.

"I ran because I was afraid for my life," Rush said. "I didn't want to go to jail because I didn't deserve it. I stopped when I realize I could be in even more danger if I didn't."

Rush said police took him to the hospital where he said to the officer.

"I asked him (Hickman) why he did what he did to me. And officer Hickman looked me in the eyes, and said 'I don't like us (expletive)," calling Rush a racial epithet.

Asheville Police chief Tammy Hooper issued a statement condemning the officer's actions.

"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. 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."

A spokesman for the local fraternal Order of Police said there are major concerns about what happened in the video.

"Most officers knew about this around the time it happened," Rondell Lance said, and that was months ago. "I would think there are more tapes than this one. The other officers may have been wearing cameras, too."

Asheville mayor Esther Manheimer issued a statement and an apology after learning about the video.

"The city council and I immediately contacted city administration to express our outrage at the treatment of Mr. Rush ... and our outrage of not being informed about the actions of APD officers," the statement said in part.

Manheimer said city leaders are calling for a review of the action taken by the Asheville Police Department.

Hickman is no longer with the force, and there is a criminal investigation into the incident.

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