NC police seek investigation into release of beating video
ASHEVILLE, N.C. (AP) — The police chief and the prosecutor in a North Carolina city say they want to know who turned over video of white officer beating a black man to a newspaper, along with a memo about the case.
Asheville police Chief Tammy Hooper tells the Asheville Citizen-Times that the release of the memo and the video was illegal and an investigation is necessary to determine the source of the leak.
“It is unlawful for us to do that. So that points to another type of investigation that would have to go on around that,” she said.
Body camera footage is not public record. The footage and the memo were given to the Citizen-Times.
District Attorney Todd Williams also criticized the release of the information and supported an investigation.
“The extrajudicial release of evidence in this case prior to the completion of the investigation, such as the body cam video, risks compromising a potential future prosecution of involved officers and may require its own independent investigation,” Williams said in a news release.
Hooper on Thursday issued an apology to Johnnie Jermaine Rush, who is shown in the video being pinned on the ground and beaten by an officer after being stopped for jaywalking in August.
City officials and community leaders, who first learned of the Aug. 24 incident through the Citizen-Times story, said they were outraged at the beating and that police had not notified them about it or the ongoing police investigation into the actions of the officer, Chris Hickman.
Hickman is a decorated 10-year department veteran who was transferred from the patrol division to detective in 2014, the same year he received an medal of honor. On Jan. 14, 2017, he was transferred back to patrol.
He resigned Jan. 5, 2018. He didn’t respond to repeated emails and phone calls from the newspaper, the Citizen-Times reported.
City Council member Sheneika Smith said state law about who can see body camera video is too restrictive. Leaders of local governments need to see the videos when there are allegations of excessive force and possible litigation, Smith added.
“When things get out of hand, who’s gonna protect our citizens? At the end of the day that’s the real focus,” she said.
Dewana Little, appointed by City Council to lead the formation of a human relations commission, said review could be done by committees that focus on equity issues and police relations.
“There are all these hurdles to viewing the footage,” Little said. “What is the point if we can’t hold them accountable for things on the body cams?”
It’s not clear if the investigation has started.
Information from: The Asheville Citizen-Times, http://www.citizen-times.com