Eric Garner’s July 2014 death arrived minutes after he told New York City cop Daniel Pantaleo that he couldn’t breathe after being placed in a chokehold. This week in North Carolina, the City of Asheville released bodycam footage of an August 2017 incident, in which a black man named Johnnie Rush echoed Garner’s words: “I can’t breathe.” During an arrest for the offense of jaywalking, a white officer not only placed him in a chokehold but punched him several times in the head and used a stun gun while Rush screamed for help.
The footage is available on the city’s YouTube page, and the Washington Post reveals that the officer in the video, Christopher Hickman, resigned from his post in January 2018 in order to avoid being fired for violating the PD’s use-of-force policy. The police department has issued a statement of condemnation:
“What happened in these recordings is unacceptable and does not meet the standards of the Asheville Police Department, the values of the City of Asheville, or the expectations of Asheville residents. Christopher Hickman’s actions violated the Asheville Police Department’s vision that all people are treated with dignity and respect. These actions have damaged the progress that the Asheville Police Department has made in the last several years in improving community trust.”
In the bodycam footage, Hickman (and a trainee named Verino Ruggiero) encountered Rush in a parking lot while he’s walking home from work. They accuse Rush of jaywalking “again and again,” an act that is not shown on the tape. The cops debate whether to write Rush a ticket but decide to arrest him after some back-and-forth, which Hickman declares is Rush acting “like a punk.” Hickman moves to grab Rush, who begins to run but then stops, and Hickman declares “You’re gonna get f***ed up hardcore. Get on the ground.”
At that point, Hickman begins to punch Rush while pushing his head into the ground. After, Hickman tells a supervisor, “I beat the sh*t out of his head. I’m not gonna lie about that.” Asheville prosecutors have now charged Hickman with the felony and misdemeanor levels of assault, but his lawyer tells the Post that he believes a jury will find his client not guilty.