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Asheville City Council To Hold Special Meeting As Fallout Over Police Beating Video Intensifies


Asheville city council has called a closed session special meeting for Monday evening to discuss a video released this week showing a then-Asheville police officer beating an unarmed black man last August.  The video, published by the Asheville Citizen-Times, shows officer Chris Hickman beating and shocking with a stun gun Johnnie Jermaine Rush.  Hickman had stopped Rush for suspected jaywalking and trespassing August 24th.  The Citizen-Times reported Hickman resigned from the force in January, the same month a criminal investigation into his actions was launched by the Asheville police department.  Hickman has not been charged so far.  Charges against Rush were dropped.

On Friday both Asheville police chief Tammy Hooper and Buncombe County district attorney Todd Williams told the Citizen-Times an investigation is needed into how the video footage was leaked to the paper.  The video came from a police body camera, and footage from those is not public record in North Carolina.  On Thursday, both Hooper and Asheville mayor Esther Manheimer apologized to Rush for the incident.  

Statement from Asheville mayor Esther Manheimer -

On behalf of City Council, I apologize to Mr. Rush, an African American resident, regarding his treatment by Asheville Police on Aug. 24, 2017.

The City Council first learned, last night, from local media, about a highly disturbing video of an Asheville Police Officer assaulting Mr. Rush over jaywalking on Aug. 24, 2017.

The City Council and I immediately contacted City administration to express our outrage at the treatment of Mr. Rush and our outrage of not being informed about the actions of APD officers. The Council is calling for a review of the violent acts against a city resident and what swift and immediate action was taken by APD upon review of the video footage. We will have accountability and, above all, transparency.

This incident is a step backward in the Asheville Police Department’s work to modernize police practices. Earlier this week, APD released a report showing a 61% decrease in the department’s overall use of force. The number shows that the revised Use of Force Policy and the training of police officers on de-escalation has helped us make progress; however, until we recognize that one incident is too many, we have not met our goals.

As your Mayor, I want there to be a clear message that there must be an end to police abuse of power. I support APD Chief Hooper in her efforts to emphasize de-escalation. The acts of these officers do not represent the professional and fair treatment a vast majority of our officers show in the course of their duties day in and day out.

We are better than this. We MUST uphold ourselves to the highest standards and practices.

Matt Bush joined Blue Ridge Public Radio as news director in August 2016. Excited at the opportunity the build up the news service for both stations as well as help launch BPR News, Matt made the jump to Western North Carolina from Washington D.C. For the 8 years prior to coming to Asheville, he worked at the NPR member station in the nation's capital as a reporter and anchor. Matt primarily covered the state of Maryland, including 6 years of covering the statehouse in Annapolis. Prior to that, he worked at WMAL in Washington and Metro Networks in Pittsburgh, the city he was born and raised in.