On Thursday, the officer, Hickman, was arrested and charged with felony assault by strangulation, as well as misdemeanor assault inflicting serious injury and communicating threats, the newspaper's Joel Burgess reported.
At the beginning of the meeting, police chief Tammy Hooper was detailing the timeline of the investigation into officer Chris Hickman, who was shown on video beating and shocking Johnnie Rush with a stun gun on Short Coxe Avenue last August. Hickman proceeded to savagely beat Rush, slamming his face on the pavements and repeatedly punching his head, while Ruggiero pinned him to the ground.
District Attorney Williams released a statement on Twitter on Thursday, confirming Hickman, an officer with Asheville Police Department, was charged in the incident.
At one point Rush attempts to run, and Hickman says "You know what's amusing is you're going to get f--ed up hardcore". It began around midnight on August 25 when officer Christopher Hickman and a police trainee stopped 33-year-old Johnnie Jermaine Rush in Asheville and accused him of jaywalking and trespassing through a parking lot, reports the Asheville Citizen-Times. Hickman first told the trainee to write him a ticket, but then told Rush to put his hands behind his back after Rush complained that officers didn't have anything better to do than "harass somebody" for walking. In the video, Rush can be heard telling the officers he can't breathe several times and crying out in agony as he was beaten, choked, and shocked twice with a TASER. Rush briefly appears to indicate that he'll cooperate before fleeing from Hickman on foot. In the recording, made as the streets were deserted, Rush said he was just walking home from his restaurant job when he was stopped near a minor league ballpark and breweries that fuel the city's booming tourism industry. Angry commenters at a public meeting this week questioned why the case unfolded so slowly and secretly.
Hickman resigned from the department sometime before January 19, according to a memo obtained by the Citizen Times. Hooper was asked whether she would do the same at last night's meeting, and she responded by saying she'd resign if people thought it would fix the problem.
The FBI investigation, alongside the independent criminal investigation into the case by the Asheville police department, is likely to focus on violations of Rush's civil rights during the incident.
In the video, Ruggiero can be seen telling Rush that he had failed to use a crosswalk four times, to which Rush replies, "All I'm trying to do is go home, man". The city released the documents after police camera video was given to the Asheville Citizen-Times. Since then, Asheville Mayor Esther Manheimer has apologized to Rush in a statement on behalf of the City Council. The council said it plans to seek a third-party audit of the police department for signs of racial bias. Only about 12 percent of the population is black.