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Excerpt: "Federal agents have opened a criminal investigation into a white North Carolina police officer shown on body camera footage beating a black man accused of jaywalking."

Asheville police chief Tammy Hooper, seen here in September, has backed an investigation into the leaking of body camera video from the department. (photo: Angela Wilhelm)
Asheville police chief Tammy Hooper, seen here in September, has backed an investigation into the leaking of body camera video from the department. (photo: Angela Wilhelm)


After a Brutal Beating in NC, the Police Officer Is the Suspect

By Associated Press

13 March 18

 

ederal agents have opened a criminal investigation into a white North Carolina police officer shown on body camera footage beating a black man accused of jaywalking.

State Bureau of Investigation spokeswoman Patty McQuillan said in an email Wednesday that an FBI criminal investigation was launched into the actions of Asheville police officer Christopher Hickman on Aug. 25, 2017. She said the state agency is assisting.

Hickman, who is shown on video subduing and punching 33-year-old Johnnie Jermaine Rush, had a history of treating people rudely, according to a city memo that also seeks to address concerns about why the case unfolded slowly outside of public view.

The August excessive-force case, revealed last week when a newspaper published body-cam video, has roiled leaders in Asheville, a mountain tourist destination with a liberal-leaning, mostly white population. Late Monday, the Asheville City Council voted to release a memo detailing how the case was handled.

The case became public after The Citizen-Times newspaper published footage last week.

Rush, whom officers had accused of jaywalking, was also shocked with a stun gun as he screamed in pain. The altercation unfolded around midnight Aug. 25 near the city's minor-league baseball stadium and a cluster of breweries that help fuel a booming tourism industry.

City Manager Gary Jackson wrote in the memo Monday that Hickman's use of "excessive and dangerous force" is "a source of great anger and concern within the community." Asheville's population of nearly 90,000 is 82 percent white and 12 percent black. Hickman resigned in January.

Pastor Ronald Gates, who joined other black clergy members in voicing concerns to city leaders last week, said he was appalled not only by "the inhumane act" he saw on the video, but also the length of time it took for details to surface publicly.

However, the leader of Greater Works Church said Tuesday that the memo's release is a step toward restoring trust: "There's a strong stance toward making things right."

According to the memo, an extensive review of body camera footage from all of Hickman's encounters with the public - some 58 hours - revealed four other times in which he "displayed discourteous and rude conduct to members of the public." It's not clear if those four incidents were previously known to Hickman's superiors; Jackson wrote that they didn't result in complaints. The memo doesn't elaborate on what happened in those cases.

The Asheville newspaper's story sparked recriminations over the handling of the case and the video leak. Under North Carolina law, a judge generally must sign off on any public release of police body camera video.

District Attorney Todd Williams issued a statement last week that the video leak could compromise prosecutions and "may require its own independent investigation." Asheville police Chief Tammy Hooper, who issued an apology to Rush, has also called for an investigation of the leak.

Yet on Monday, Asheville City Attorney Robin Currin requested that a judge allow public release of all video surrounding Rush's arrest, noting "it is critical that the public be provided with a complete picture."

The memo released Monday by the City Council gives the most complete account yet of the case.

Hours after he was arrested, Rush filed an excessive force complaint. The memo says the police chief reviewed footage that day, ordered that Hickman turn in his badge and gun and placed him on administrative duty. A supervisor who responded to the scene was also disciplined over the handling of information in the case.

Charges against Rush, including impeding traffic and resisting arrest, were dropped in September. No working phone listing could be found for Rush, who's heard on video saying he was leaving work when officers accused him of failing to use a crosswalk.

After the administrative investigation finished in December, the department concluded Hickman used excessive force. The memo states Hickman was due to be terminated Jan. 5, but he resigned instead at the start of that meeting.

A phone number for Hickman had a full inbox and wouldn't take messages.

Separate from the department's administrative review, the district attorney recommended that the State Bureau of Investigation probe the case to determine if criminal charges are warranted.

The police chief made that request in January, but the SBI declined to investigate. On Friday, SBI spokeswoman Patty McQuillan said the delay in seeking the state agency's help would have made it difficult to gather useful witness interviews and other evidence.

Instead, in late January, an Asheville detective was assigned to investigate whether criminal charges are appropriate. According to the memo, the detective's findings should be given to prosecutors within the next week.


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+8 # treerapper 2018-03-13 09:37
Pigs!!!
 
 
+21 # BetaTheta 2018-03-13 09:39
The "crime" was obviously not jaywalking, but being Insufficiently Subservient While Black.
 
 
+19 # BetaTheta 2018-03-13 09:51
The pattern is all too familiar: Police confront a Black man who is already fed up with being gratuitously harassed. If he says a word in protest, they take that as a green light to escalate. With some cops, that is the thrill of the job. Then they feel justified in their own minds for a situation they created, and that never had to happen.
Don't they still teach police the arts of de-escalation? That is what keeping public order is all about.
 
 
+16 # Wise woman 2018-03-13 09:53
Asheville is one of the most liberal leaning towns in America. What is some creep like Hickman doing on their police force? I saw the video and its a disgrace to the town's image but typical of the type of police brutality against people of color that is so blatant in this country. It is shameful and disgusting.
 
 
+6 # ktony 2018-03-13 11:34
It sure is "interesting" that the sound only comes on when the cops are giving their cover story.
Then too, why is nothing said about the cop who was apparently holding the victim's head while the other cop was beating him?
Also, they let the effing cop resign instead of firing him. This usually means that Ashville citizens will continue pay this monster's pension, and that he will just get hired by another department.
 
 
+4 # they said what? 2018-03-13 12:10
Wise Woman: "Asheville is one of the most liberal leaning towns in America. What is some creep like Hickman doing on their police force?"

The police force in many places does not match the politics of the local community - LAPD?

Beta Theta: "The "crime" was obviously not jaywalking, but being Insufficiently Subservient While Black."

Yes. Apparently, talking back to a police officer in America is a horrible crime. On British TV detective shows, suspects routinely talk back to, curse, and disrespect the police and are not beaten up. Subservience is not a requirement.

So why, in our purportedly great democracy with all its human rights, is subservience a requirement when dealing with "authority"? Why do people consider negative criticism or protest of a President treasonous? Is that a legitimate attitude for people in a democracy which supposedly has free speech rights?
 
 
+5 # Texas Aggie 2018-03-13 18:18
If they had been as eager to investigate this sadistic POS as they are to investigate whoever blew the whistle, then the pig would have been in jail and there wouldn't have been a need to blow the whistle. At least the cops in charge would have come out looking a lot better than they are now.

That it took the release, authorized or not, of the video to kick their butts into doing what they should have done a long time ago speaks very poorly for them as responsible administrators.
 

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