The city of Asheville Monday afternoon formally asked Buncombe County Superior Court to release any additional police body camera footage of the beating of Johnnie Jermaine Rush. The unarmed black man was beaten by then Asheville police officer Chris Hickman last August as he walking through the parking lot of a closed business on Short Coxe Avenue. Rush was initially stopped for suspected jaywalking and trespassing, but charges against him were dropped. Hickman resigned from the force in January, shortly before a criminal investigation into his actions in the Rush beating was opened by the Asheville police department. That investigation is expected to be finished in a week, at which point Buncombe County District Attorney Todd Williams will decide whether charges will be filed. The North Carolina Bureau of Investigation, which typically handles such inquiries, told the Asheville Citizen-Times city police waited too long before asking them to investigate, and therefore the SBI would not look into the matter.
Police body camera footage is not public record in North Carolina, and only a court can order it to be released. The city of Asheville's petition is the first step in doing that. The body camera footage that showed the beating only became public when the video was given to the Asheville Citizen-Times. Both the Buncombe County District Attorney and Asheville police chief have said an investigation into the leak of the video the paper could be forthcoming.
The petition to release any other footage came just hours before an Asheville city council meeting where members in a closed session voted to release additional information about Hickman's personnel record. That can be viewed here. The new details show Hickman resigned at a meeting January 5th before chief Tammy Hooper could fire him. After reviewing 58 hours of footage from Hickman's body camera, four instances outside of the August beating incident were found where he displayed 'discourteous or rude behavior' to the public. No complaints were filed after those incidents, but the police department's Professional Standards Unit did launch a query into whether he violated any departmental policies in his actions.
This Wednesday March 7th, the city's Citizen Police Advisory Committee will hold a public meeting at 6:30 p.m. at the Wesley Grant Sr. Southside Center. It's open to the public. A hotline has also been opened to allow residents to share their thoughts on the beating video, with the messages they leave being sent to member of the committee. The hotline number is 828-259-5900.