UPDATE: Former Asheville Police Officer Charged For August Beating
(UPDATE Thursday 9:40 p.m.) - Buncombe County District Attorney Todd Williams announced in a press release late Thursday that former Asheville police officer Chris Hickman will face three criminal charges for the August beating of an unarmed black man. Hickman and an officer in training stopped Johnnie Rush for suspected jaywalking and trespassing late on the night of August 24th on Short Coxe Avenue. Hickman beat, choked and shocked Rush with a stun gun. The charges detailed Thursday night against Hickman - who resigned from the police force in January - are one count each of assault by strangulation, assault inflicting serious injury, and communicating threats. The criminal investigation into Hickman's actions did not start until after he resigned, and wrapped up a week after the video of the beating was leaked to the Asheville Citizen-Times, which first published it and made the incident public. The paper also reports five of the seven members of city council it could reachsupport police chief Tammy Hooper staying on the job.
(UPDATE Thursday 4:20 p.m) - Asheville city councilman Vijay Kapoor is throwing his support behind police chief Tammy Hooper, who offered to resign in asked at Wednesday night's meeting of the city's citizen police advisory committee. Kapoor, who just took office in January after being the top vote-getter in last year's election, said in a statement that the release of a video showing a then-Asheville police officer beating an unarmed black man last August and the revelations of the delays in investigating it were 'clearly a setback' in changing the culture of the police department, he still supports Hooper.
It didn’t take long for anger and frustration to surface at a meeting of Asheville’s Citizen Police Advisory Committee. The gathering held at the Grant Southside Center came one week after video surfaced of a then-Asheville police officer beating an unarmed black man last August.
At the beginning of the meeting, police chief Tammy Hooper was detailing the timeline of the investigation into officer Chris Hickman, who was shown on video beating and shocking Johnnie Rush with a stun gun on Short Coxe Avenue last August. But the packed house was in no mood to listen. Instead, it was the public who spent most of the night talking. One by one, hour upon hour, residents – nearly all African-Americans – spoke their anger and frustration. The first to speak was DeLores Venable of Asheville Black Lives Matter.
Shortly after that, Buncombe County commissioner and longtime civil rights activist Al Whitesides spoke.
In particular, it was the investigation into Hickman, who’s white, that was brought up the most. Personnel files made public this week showed Hickman turned in his badge and gun the day after the incident, but remained on the force for more than four months until he resigned in January at a meeting where Hooper was preparing to fire him. Hooper was asked whether she would do the same at last night’s meeting, and she responded by saying she’d resign if people thought it would fix the problem. Something else that isn't happening - right now at least- according to Hooper is an investigation into who leaked the tape of the beating to the Asheville Citizen-Times, which first published it. Police body camera footage is not public record in North Carolina, and in the wake of the release of the video of the Rush beating, both Hooper and Buncombe County district attorney Todd Williams backed the idea of investigating the leak.