‘I can’t breathe!’: Video shows beating of jaywalking man in North Carolina
Police body camera video obtained by the Citizen Times newspaper of Asheville, NC, shows Officer Chris Hickman, who is white, striking the head of Johnnie Jermaine Rush while Rush was being violently restrained by Hickman and another officer.
Rush was suspected of jaywalking and trespassing across a deserted parking area at night. The conflict was sparked when 33-year old Rush, who is African-American, began to complain about the police’s continued attention.
Rush says “I just want to go home, I’m tired man, I just finished work.”
The two police officers approach him and force him to ground.
As Rush began to run away, Hickman chases him and is heard saying “You’re going to get f**ked up hardcore”.
While held on the ground and choked, Rush repeatedly cries out “I can’t breathe”, before being tasered twice.
People condemned the acts on Twitter.
Hickman, who had been awarded a department medal of honor in 2014, resigned in January, according to a memo obtained by the Citizen Times.
Police Chief Tammy Hooper confirmed on Wednesday that Hickman no longer works in the department. In a statement, Hooper apologised to Rush and said the incident was “unacceptable and contrary to the Department’s vision.” She has since offered to resign.
Police launched a criminal investigation in January into whether the officers used excessive force in the arrest. The FBI has also opened a criminal investigation into the incident.
"The SBI has been requested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation to assist them with a criminal investigation," said the statement from SBI spokeswoman Patty McQuillan, according to Citizen Times. The North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation previously twice rejected calls to look into the beating, according to Citizen Times.
However, District Attorney Todd Williams also called for a separate enquiry into the leaking of the video in a tweet earlier in March. He criticized the release of the footage saying it could compromise prosecutions and may warrant a “criminal investigation” in itself.
“The release raises serious concerns and may require its own criminal investigation”, Williams said.
Hooper echoed Williams’ statement and added that it was “unlawful” to release the footage and an investigation may be launched, reports Citizen Times.
Dewana Little, who was appointed by City Council to develop a human relations commission, believes that the camera footage is important so as to hold police accountable.
"There are all these hurdles to viewing the footage. What is the point if we can't hold [police] accountable for things on the body cams?" she said.
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