Asheville, NC – Crossing the street in a manner deemed “illegal” by the state can and will get you beaten, shot, kidnapped, caged, and even killed. Body Camera footage was released last week illustrating this dangerous reality. The video shows one police officer restraining a man down while another officer repeatedly punches him in the head after they confronted him for the “crime” of jaywalking. Now, in an extremely rare move by the District Attorney, the cop who was recorded doing the beating has been criminally charged and arrested.
District Attorney Todd Williams announced Thursday night that former officer Chris Hickman, 31, is facing charges of felony assault by strangulation, and misdemeanor assault inflicting serious injury and communicating threats, according to the Citizen-Times.
Hickman then posted $10,000 bail and was released.
Hickman case news: pic.twitter.com/ayewjg9g8f
— Buncombe County DA (@BuncombeCoDA) March 9, 2018
According to the Citizen-Times, Hickman walked out of the jail at about 8:45 p.m. accompanied by another man, who shined a light at a cellphone camera of a reporter trying to take a photo. Hickman walked straight ahead and didn’t answer or react when asked if he was guilty of the charges. Both men left in a pickup truck.
As TFTP reported last week, Johnnie Jermaine Rush, 33, had just finished a 13-hour shift at a local Cracker Barrel restaurant and was leaving a store on his way home when he was approached by Verino Ruggiero, an officer in training. In the Body Cam footage published by the Citizen-Times, Ruggiero claimed he had warned Rush about jaywalking.
“All I’m trying to do is go home, man. I‘m tired. I just got off work,” Rush replied.
The Body Cam footage is from a camera worn by Hickman, who was in the patrol car with Ruggiero. While Ruggiero was the one directly confronting Rush, Hickman stood on the other side of the vehicle.
“I’ve got two options: I can either arrest you or write you a ticket,” Ruggiero told Rush.
“It doesn’t matter to me, man. Do what you have got to do, besides keep harassing me,” Rush replied.
“I’m not harassing you,” Ruggiero insisted.
“That’s all in your mind, man,” Hickman interjected. He then directed his attention towards his fellow officer and said, “Just write him a ticket. He wants to act like a punk.”
It is clear from the Body Cam footage that traffic was light at that time of night, and the Citizen-Times noted that the confrontation happened near a corner were hundreds of pedestrians typically cross without using a crosswalk before and after games at a nearby baseball field.
When Rush let out an exasperated string of obscenities, Hickman apparently decided that a ticket was not enough. He began marching towards Rush, pointing his finger at him and yelling, “Put your hands behind your back! Don’t! Don’t! Do NOT! Stop, drop the bag. Put your hands behind your back.”
“OK, OK,” Rush responded before he slipped from the officer’s grasp and started running in the opposite direction.
“Motherf—ker … thinks it’s funny. You know what’s funny is that you’re going to get f—ked up hardcore!” Hickman yelled as he pulled out his Taser and chased after Rush.
Rush stopped running and both officers forced him to the ground and piled on top of him. While both Hickman and Ruggiero restrained Rush on the ground, Hickman is seen on the Body Cam footage punching him in the head several times.
“I can’t breathe!” Rush cried out multiple times as he was punched repeatedly and hit with the officer’s Taser twice. He was taken to the hospital after the incident, and he told the Citizen-Times that while he was there, “Hickman was abusive to him and used a racial slur.”
Rush was initially charged with assault on a government official; resisting, delaying and obstructing an officer; trespass and traffic offenses. However, those charges have all been dismissed.
As The Free Thought Project has reported, a study on the cases in which pedestrians received tickets for jaywalking or “crossing the street improperly” found that most individuals were ticketed in error because the officers did not know the law.
While some law enforcement agencies admitted that their officers used crosswalk tickets as a way to stop and question people they suspected of criminal activity, it should also be noted that several of the officers who attempt to issue the tickets, or to find out more information about the individuals they believed were suspects, have also been accused of excessive force.
Examples include a man who was tackled to the ground and beaten by police in Millville, New Jersey; a man who was beaten, stripped naked and mocked by police in Del Paso Heights, California; and a teenager who was tackled and choked to the ground by police in Fresno, California. All of these cases have one thing in common—the safety of the subject who was allegedly crossing the street improperly was used as an excuse by officers who then threatened the subject’s safety by using excessive force.