Bodycam Video Shows North Carolina Cop Beat Suspect for Jaywalking
Screenshot/Citizen TimesUS22:00 01.03.2018(updated 22:05 01.03.2018) Get short URL311
On Wednesday, the Citizen Times, a news outlet based in Asheville, North Carolina, released body camera footage showing an officer using excessive force during the arrest of a man suspected of jaywalking.
The footage, which stems from an August 2017 altercation, begins when Verino Ruggiero, then an officer-in-training with the Ashville Police Department, approaches local resident Johnnie Jermaine Rush for jaywalking.
Upset with the officer’s nitpicking, Rush tells Ruggiero that he was just going home after wrapping up a 13-hour shift at the local Cracker Barrel.
“All I’m trying to do is go home, man. I’m tired. I just got off work,” Rush tells Ruggiero. “You’re acting like you have nothing better to do.”
After going back and forth on the matter, Ruggiero then informs Rush that he can either be ticketed for jaywalking or be arrested on the spot.
“It doesn’t matter to me, man. Do what you have got to do, besides keep harassing me,” Rush responded.
By this point, Chris Hickman, the senior officer assigned to train Ruggiero, interjects, saying, “that’s all in your mind, man,” before ordering Ruggiero to write up a citation. However, the scene quickly unravels after Hickman approaches Rush and demands he puts his hands behind his back.
Rush instead backs away from Hickman and runs.
“You know what’s funny is you’re gonna get f**ked up hardcore,” Hickman is heard saying as he chases Rush and pulls out his stun gun. “Get on the ground, put your hands on your back.”
According to Rush, when he saw the stun gun he stopped running, the Citizen Times reported.
After officials pinned him down, Hickman proceeded by punching Rush in the head repeatedly before opting to tase him while he yelled out that he couldn’t breathe.
With additional officers arriving on the scene, Hickman is heard telling another officer that he “beat the sh*t out of his head” and that he wasn’t “going to lie about that.”
Rush later told the publication that after the altercation ended and he was taken to a hospital, Hickman continued to be abusive and even used a racial slur. Rush is African-American, Hickman is white.
Officers charged Rush with assault on a government official, resisting, delaying and obstructing an officer, trespass and traffic offenses. However, the charges were later dismissed by the Buncombe County District Attorney’s Office.
According to Detroit’s WDIV, after viewing the footage, Asheville Police Chief Tammy Hooper and District Attorney Todd Williams asked the State Bureau of Investigations to launch an investigation of the incident, but for an unknown reasons it declined.
“When that was turned down, I felt that a criminal investigation was still required,” Williams told Citizen Times on Wednesday.
In response to the outlet publishing the bodycam footage, Hopper released a statement on Thursday condemning the acts and assuring residents that the matter was being investigated.
“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,” Hopper wrote. “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.”
“It is the policy of the Asheville Police Department to review all instances of use of force and to take swift and immediate action upon any use of unwarranted or excessive force. The officer is no longer employed by the Asheville Police Department and a criminal investigation is underway that will be submitted to the District Attorney,” she added.
Hickman is suspected of simple assault, which is classified as a misdemeanor in the Tar Heel State. Ruggiero is not under investigation for the 2017 incident.