Federal authorities are investigating body camera footage from August that shows two white police officers Tasering and beating a black man whom they accused of jaywalking in Asheville, N.C.
The footage, obtained by The Citizen Times, has created an uproar in town. One of the officers has resigned, and the police chief has offered to follow suit.
“The city is in outrage,” Councilwoman Sheneika Smith said in a phone interview on Wednesday. “Facebook was flaming. It was on fire.”
The beginning of the video, which was taken last year, shows Johnnie Jermaine Rush being approached by Verino Ruggiero, an officer in training, shortly after midnight on Aug. 25 at a street corner near a baseball stadium in Asheville, about 120 miles west of Charlotte.
“You didn’t use the crosswalk four times in a row,” Officer Ruggiero says in the video.
“All I’m trying to do is go home, man. I’m tired!” Mr. Rush says. “I just got off of work.”
“I’ve got two options, I can either arrest you or write you a ticket,” Officer Ruggiero says.
“It doesn’t matter, man. Do what you got to do besides keep harassing me, man,” Mr. Rush responds.
The episode quickly escalates from there. Officer Chris Hickman, who was training Officer Ruggiero and wearing the body camera, orders Mr. Rush to put his hands behind his back. Mr. Rush runs, and the officers chase him, eventually tackling him to the ground.
During the arrest, Mr. Rush was shocked with a Taser, choked and beaten by Officer Hickman, according to police records.
At several points, while pinned to the ground, Mr. Rush cried, “I can’t breathe!”
The camera footage also shows Officer Hickman hitting Mr. Rush on the head over and over with a closed fist, and Mr. Rush crying out in pain as he is shocked with a Taser.
Mr. Rush could not be reached for comment.
When Councilwoman Smith first saw the video, she said she was “immediately disturbed.”
She recognized Mr. Rush, she said, from her work last year with the nonprofit Green Opportunities, a work force development organization that provides training programs to people in marginalized communities.
She described him as a hardworking man who was eager to learn and who had expressed an interest in construction and carpentry. “He was looking for opportunities to gain more skills so he could qualify for higher-paying jobs,” she said.
On the day Mr. Rush was approached by the officers, he was walking home after the end of his dishwashing shift at a Cracker Barrel restaurant, according to the arrest report.
Police records show he was charged with second-degree trespass, impeding traffic, assault on a government official and resisting a public officer. In September, all of the charges were dismissed after Todd M. Williams, the district attorney in Asheville, reviewed the body camera video, police records show.
Mr. Williams did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
Late Wednesday, at a local police advisory meeting packed with community members, Police Chief Tammy Hooper reportedly said she was “happy to resign” if that would quell the public discontent.
See More- Source: NY Times