Johnnie Jermaine Rush was walking home when he was confronted by Christopher Hickman, a former Asheville, North Carolina officer who punched him. Hickman bloodied Rush’s face and administered a chokehold on the ground over accusations of jaywalking. The unarmed man screamed Eric Garner‘s final words, “I can’t breathe.” Still, the ex-Asheville cop went on to use a stun gun to subdue Rush, 32, during the confrontation last August that has opened more eyes to the horror of police brutality.
It was a scary ordeal that was captured in nine body camera videos released Monday after Hickman, 31, was fired from the Asheville Police Department, the Washington Post reported.
At the time of the encounter, the blows to Rush’s body were delivered with Hickman’s offensive language, the footage revealed.
“Just write him a ticket. He wants to act like a punk,” Hickman said in the videos. “He thinks it’s funny. You know what’s funny is you’re gonna get f‑‑‑ed up hardcore. Get on the ground.”
Hickman was charged with felony assault by strangulation, misdemeanor assault inflicting serious injury and misdemeanor communicating threats. He was “quickly taken off the street” after using “dangerous and excessive force against Johnnie Rush,” according to the Asheville city website. His actions, the city said, “violated the Asheville Police Department’s vision that all people are treated with dignity and respect.”
But a problem bigger than Hickman’s use of nearly deadly force garnered attention: allegations of citywide anti-Black racism practices. Activists demanded that city officials be held accountable for specific actions.
“Black Lives Matter is pretty much fed up with people making excuses for the blatant anti-black racism practices in this city,” Black Lives Matter member Sharon Smith said at a city council meeting following the beating incident involving Hickman, the Asheville Citizen-Times reported.
Asheville officials will likely have to face more protests over what happened to Rush. Hickman will face a judge to answer for his crimes in court, with the shocking footage helping to hold him accountable for the incident and bring about police reforms.