‘I can’t breathe’: FBI investigate police who beat and tasered Black man for jaywalking
A community is demanding justice after a video was released showing North Carolina police officers brutally assaulting a Black man for jaywalking.
And the FBI has launched an investigation.
Asheville, North Carolina police officer Christopher Hickman has resigned after video surfaced showing of him brutally choking, beating, and tasering Johnnie Rush for jaywalking.
The 33-year-old Black man can be seen getting punched and choked on camera and then arrested in the August 24, 2017 footage. Patty McQuillan, spokeswoman for the State Bureau of Investigation said that a federal probe was launched into the actions of Hickman on Aug. 25, 2017.
According to The Daily Mail, The Citizen-Times newspaper published footage of the attack last week, which came from the body camera footage of one of the officers. The video sparked outrage in the community and citizens were questioning the police chief about why the video was withheld from the public for so long.
What happened on the video
In the video, the criminal accusations against Officer Hickman are clear.
“All I’m trying to do is go home, man. I’m tired. I just got off work,” Johnnie Rush explained to Officer Hickman after completing 13-hour shift at Cracker Barrel.
Hickman was accompanied by Verino Ruggerio, an office-in-training.
“I’ve got two options,” said the rookie Ruggiero: “I can either arrest you or write you a ticket.”
“It doesn’t matter to me, man,” Rush said. “Do what you have got to do, besides keep harassing me.”
Rush reportedly curses, which angered Hickman enough to order him to place his hands behind his back. Rush then began to run away.
“You know what’s funny is you’re going to get f**ked up hardcore,” Hickman can be heard yelling while pursuing the man.
Rush can be seen slowing down and approaching the cops, to which he is pushed to the ground, and brutally beaten. Hickman is seen on camera repeatedly hitting Hickman in the head while yelling at him to place his hands behind his back.
Hickman then tasered Rush twice, before choking him and holding him down as the victim is heard breathlessly saying, “I can’t breathe.”
After making the arrest, Hickman can be heard taunting Rush as he places him in the back of the police car. He also tells the emergency responder called to the scene that he “beat the s**t out of his head, I’m not going to lie about that.”
Hickman resigned on January 5 and a criminal investigation was opened on January 18.
Johnnie Rush was charged with assaulting a government official and traffic offenses, which have all since been dropped.
The Police Chief Tammy Hooper reportedly apologized to Rush in front of a crowd on Thursday after the video was released, and called the actions of Hickman “unacceptable.”
Hooper also said that she and District Attorney Todd Williams asked the State Bureau of Investigation to initiate criminal charges against Hickman, to which they declined.
The FBI were then called to investigate, and Williams hopes that criminal charges will be forthcoming.