Feds investigating Asheville use of force incident

ASHEVILLE, NC - The North Carolina State Bureau of Investigations confirmed on Wednesday that they are working a joint investigation with the FBI into a use of force incident involving a former Asheville Police Officer from August of 2017. 

Former officer Christopher Hickman can be seen on a body worn camera beating and tasing Asheville citizen Johnnie Rush, after stopping him for jaywalking on August 24th, 2017. The body camera footage was leaked to the Asheville Citizen Times newspaper and published last Thursday.  Body camera footage can only be released to the public with a court order. District Attorney Todd Williams stated that an investigation into who leaked the video may be needed.

On Monday, the city of Asheville filed a petition with the court to release the body camera footage to the public. The city also voted in a specially called meeting to release the personnel file of Officer Hickman. 

That personnel file revealed that Officer Hickman was removed from patrol the day after the incident and that he resigned from the department on January 5th. A public personnel file provided by the police department shows that Hickman was also suspended on October of 2017. A public spokesperson for the department says the suspension was unrelated to the use of force investigation. 

In January, District Attorney Todd Williams told Asheville Police that ha criminal investigation should be started, to which they contacted the State Bureau of Investigations. The SBI denied taking over the investigation twice stating that Asheville had waited too long for the request and that it would taint the investigation. 

On Friday, DA Williams wrote the director of the SBI, asking that they take over the investigation. Williams stated that he received Asheville Police's full criminal investigation into Hickman's actions yesterday. 

The SBI stated that DA Williams and the SBI director met today to discuss Williams' request. 

The SBI provided the following statement: 

"The SBI has been requested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation to assist them with a criminal investigation. The SBI director has discussed this with the district attorney and has declined to open a separate state investigation at this time given that the SBI is already assisting with a federal criminal investigation which will encompass most, if not all, of the issues set forth in the district attorney’s request. A second state investigation would likely duplicate much of the results of the ongoing federal investigation." 

No charges have been filed against Hickman to this point. 


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