The Asheville Police Department in North Carolina has issued a formal apology after body camera footage of police officers assaulting Johnnie Jermaine Rush, a black jaywalker, was made public, the Citizen Times reports.
The apology, posted on the police department’s social media accounts this week, came from police chief Tammy Hooper.
Statement from Chief Hooper regarding the video on @asheville. #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..." pic.twitter.com/9fNSeKIiMR— Asheville Police (@AshevillePolice) March 1, 2018
“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," Hooper said in the statement.
“Officers know that they must earn the trust of our community by providing fair and respectful service," the chief continued. "That very clearly did not happen during the incident depicted and for that I apologize to Mr. Rush, as well as the community."
Hooper also confirmed that the officer accused of the assault, Chris Hickman, is no longer with the force, and the incident is under investigation.
The apology was prompted by the Citizen Times publishing footage from the August 24, 2017, arrest of Rush.
The clip shows Rush being choked, punched and tazed after officers confronted him for jaywalking. In the video, officer-in-training Verino Ruggiero and Rush have a heated argument; Ruggiero and Hickman accused Rush of ignoring their warnings to stop jaywalking.
"All I’m trying to do is go home, man. I‘m tired. I just got off work," Rush, who later said he’d just finished a 13-hour shift at Cracker Barrel, told Ruggiero.
Ruggiero replied, "I've got two options: 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."
The argument continued, and after Rush cursed and asked the officers to stop harassing him again, Hickman intervened and ordered Rush to place his hands behind his back.
Rush then began to run, and the officers pursued him. Hickman is heard yelling, “Motherf*cker! ... [on radio] black male, white tank top, thinks it’s funny, you know what’s funny is you’re going to get f*cked up hardcore!”
The officers caught Rush, and pinned him down on the ground. Hickman then punched Rush in the head a few times and used a stun gun on him twice. Rush yelled that he couldn't breathe multiple times during the incident.
Rush was later taken to the hospital, and in his account of events, accused Hickman of using a racial slur.
Following his arrest, Rush was initially charged with assault on a government official; resisting, delaying and obstructing an officer; trespass and traffic offenses, but the charges were dropped on September 18, according to police records.
Hooper and District Attorney Todd Williams asked the State Bureau of Investigation to investigate the incident, but the bureau declined to do so. Now, the department is conducting its own investigation.