Pete's Prep: Friday, March 2, 2018

Outrage over Asheville police body cam video of beating

It started as a warning from an officer-in-training to a man jaywalking through traffic and crossing through a commercial property late at night in August.

It ended with an officer's resignation, a leaked video, and outrage.

It will likely lead to a hefty lawsuit settlement.

The Citizen-Times was given the footage from former Officer Christopher Hickman's body camera. Hickman is white. The jaywalking citizen -Johnnie Jermaine Rush - is black:

Rush said he had recently returned from working a 13-hour shift at the Cracker Barrel on Tunnel Road and was leaving a store when he was approached by police.

He is confronted by Verino Ruggiero, then an officer in training. Ruggiero says in the video he had warned Rush about jaywalking.

"All I’m trying to do is go home, man. I‘m tired. I just got off work," Rush replies.

Ruggiero says, "I've got two options: I can either arrest you or write you a ticket."

"It doesn't matter to me, man," Rush says. "Do what you have got to do, besides keep harassing me."

When Rush curses in exasperation, Hickman tells him to put his hands behind his back.

Rush then runs. As he chases him, Hickman can be heard saying, "You are going to get (expletive) up hardcore," and pulls out a stun gun.

Rush told the Citizen Times he then stopped. In the video, Hickman and at least one other officer are seen pushing Rush to the ground.

After the encounter, Rush said he was taken to the hospital and while there said Hickman was abusive to him and used a racial slur.

On the video, the officers are obviously struggling with Rush - who is resisting. Officer Hickman tells another officer that Rush attempted to grab a TASER from one of the cops.

I'm not sure why this isn't mentioned in the article.

It's obvious that the APD's focus on deescalation tactics did not get used very well in this incident.

Mr. Rush was asked by an officer to use the crosswalk and sidewalk. He refused.

This is antagonistic, of course.

And when he was stopped again, Mr. Rush could've said, "Oh, I'm sorry I forgot. It's been a long day." Instead, Rush sarcastically apologizes and remains belligerent when the officer-in-training says, "Look at me."

A simple and believable apology could have been the end of it.

Likewise, the officers could have simply given Rush a ticket, and that would've been the end of it. But Hickman obviously lost his temper and opted to arrest Rush.

When I watch the video, I can't help notice the mutual disrespect. It prompted the interaction and then led to its escalation.

Or maybe Asheville will repeal jaywalking laws so as to avoid all future interactions of this kind.

Was APD video payback against complaining cops?

Another aspect to this story is how police body cam video got to the Asheville Citizen-Times. The footage is not public record. The AC-T does not appear to have sought it via court order, either.

So, someone delivered it to the paper.

For a reason.

Remember, this incident occurred in August. The District Attorney's office could have brought charges at any point since then. Was it someone inside the DA's office who was mad that there was no punishment against the officer?

I have heard from multiple APD-affiliated sources that independently asserted it was released by the DA's office - in retribution for officers' outrage over an entirely different case... and how it was handled by the DA.

From two years ago:

A suspect used a police Taser on two officers Saturday before being arrested on several charges.

Police say officers got a call at 10:30 a.m. about a suspicious vehicle at the dead end of Booker Street in the Shiloh neighborhood.

When they got to the car, listed in a police incident report as a 1999 Plymouth Voyager, officers saw a man they recognized as Ronald Eugene Patton and a woman inside.

They attempted to arrest Patton for outstanding warrants for failing to register as a sex offender. But Patton fled on foot, police spokeswoman Christina Hallingse said Monday.

Cops were mad about this case. And some believe the video was leaked as payback against APD for complaining about the DA.

It could have been leaked by someone inside APD.

And what I've been told it looks like someone very high up in the department.

Either way, it's a serious crime to leak this video (I'm told there are other videos of the incident). If we see no effort to determine who did so, it'll indicate a dysfunctional relationship inside the legal community.

Pete Kaliner

Pete Kaliner

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