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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 earlier 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. Last month, the citizens of Asheville shelled out $650,000 because of the actions of these officers and now, police are being trained to prevent similar scenarios from playing out in the future.

According to the settlement and release agreement, Asheville will pay a total of $650,000 to Rush and his attorneys. The victim, Johnnie Rush will receive $342,500, which will be paid out in periodic payments. Ferguson Chambers & Sumter, P.A. is set to receive $307,500, according to WLOS.

This week, the Asheville City Council announced that they will be training police officers to stop incidents in which their fellow officers lose control. However, some say it doesn't go far enough.

"APD has updated and revised its Early Intervention System policy. This policy
establishes guidelines for a Personnel Early Intervention System (EIS), a pro-active,
non-disciplinary system that seeks to identify and positively influence conduct or
performance related problems exhibited by individual employees," Interim City Manager Cathy Ball said.

The new system will use reviews of body cameras and the chief and deputy police chiefs are being taught to intervene.

According to the new reforms:

  • Officers have been reminded when to give aid after using force. That means an ambulance is called if the person subject to the force complains of injury. Rush, who was bleeding and complaining of pain, was taken to the hospital only after he complained multiple times.
  • Work is underway to improve responses to news of police-involved incidents, including the creation of a crisis communication program. It took more than 12 hours for a statement from a city official after the Feb. 28 publication by the Citizen Times of police body cam footage showing the beating.
  • The Field Officer Training program has been revised. Hickman was a FTO at the time of the beating and had a trainee with him.

Not all council members were satisfied with the results, however. As the Citizen Times reports this week, Sheneika Smith, one of two African Americans on the council and a member of the council's Public Safety Committee, criticized the report and its recommendations, saying consultants should have spoken with local civil rights activists and that some might see the results as the "police policing the police."

Earlier this year, in an extremely rare move by the District Attorney, the cop who was recorded doing the beating has been criminally charged and arrested.

It took nearly a year for the department to release all the video from the attack which illustrates why the officer was charged. He was charged with felony strangulation in the beating of Rush.

District Attorney Todd Williams announced March 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.

The department attempted to keep the video below from the public eye, however, the city of Asheville petitioned the courts to release all the footage related to the incident. On March 26th, a judge ruled that they were to be released, and then nine videos were published online.

As TFTP reported earlier this year, 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 originally released footage was 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.

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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.

After watching the videos below, it becomes entirely clear as to why the charges against Rush were dropped and charges against Hickman were brought.

In an interview on Monday, Rush asked the following question highlighting the dangerous nature of his encounter with Hickman.

"What would have happened if he had killed me? Then what?" Rush said.

Below are the chilling videos, each with a brief description as provided by WSPA 7 News.

1. Recording is taken from the body-worn camera of Christopher Hickman on August 24, 2017, at 11:52 p.m. The video is taken at the Eblen Short Stop (210 Biltmore Avenue) when Officer Verino Ruggiero first approaches Johnnie Rush about jaywalking as he leaves the convenience store.

2. Recording is taken from the body-worn camera of Christopher Hickman on August 25, 2017, at 12:01 a.m. This is the original recording that was released by the Asheville Citizen-Times on March 1, 2018. This recording contains violent content and explicit language.

3. Recording is taken from the body-worn camera of Police Officer Luis Delgado on August 25, 2017, at 12:04 a.m. Officer Delgado arrives to the scene and sees a struggle between Christopher Hickman, Officer Ruggiero and Mr. Rush. At the time of Officer Delgado’s arrival Mr. Rush is being tasered. This recording contains violent content and explicit language.

4. Recording is taken from the body-worn camera of Sgt. Lisa Taube on August 25, 2017, at 12:04 a.m. Per the Asheville Police Department’s Use of Force Policy, “a supervisor will respond to the scene of all reportable incidents involving a use of force to conduct a preliminary investigation and collect supplemental documents….” The video contains the supervisors interactions with Mr. Rush, Mr. Rush’s significant other and Christopher Hickman. Sergeant Taube ultimately received disciplinary action for poor performance, and was ordered to undergo remedial training in connection with this incident. This recording contains violent content and explicit language.

5. Recording is taken from the body-worn camera of Senior Police Officer Doug Williams on August 25, 2017, at 12:04 a.m. SPO Williams arrived to the scene as Mr. Rush is being walked across the street to Hickman’s patrol vehicle. This video contains explicit language.

6. Recording is taken from the body-worn camera of Senior Police Officer Shawn Parker on August 25, 2017, at 12:07 a.m. SPO Parker arrived to the scene as Mr. Rush is being walked across the street to Hickman’s patrol vehicle. This video contains explicit language.

7. Recording is taken from the body-worn camera of Officer Colby Davis on August 25, 2017, at 12:08 a.m. Officer Davis arrived on the scene after Mr. Rush was taken across the street to Hickman’s patrol vehicle. This video contains explicit language.

8. Recording is taken from the body-worn camera of Senior Police Officer Shawn Parker on August 25, 2017, at 12:31 a.m. It shows SPO Parker interacting with Mr. Rush’s significant other, as well as other officers who arrive on-scene. This video contains explicit language.

9. Recording is taken from the body-worn camera of Christopher Hickman on August 25, 2017, at 1:22 a.m. The recording is taken in the parking lot of Mission Hospital following Mr. Rush’s release from the hospital. The video shows Christopher Hickman, Officer Verino Ruggiero and Mr. Rush talking about the earlier incident in the Mission Parking lot, and then the drive to the Buncombe County Detention Facility.