Asheville Police Department supervisor under scrutiny, disciplined in police bodycam case

Photo credit: Asheville Citizen Times

Attention is being focused on a supervisor who faced disciplinary action after failing to watch the explosive bodycam footage of former Asheville Police Department officer Chris Hickman punching and tasing Johnnie Jermaine Rush last August.

In a Citizens Police Advisory Committee meeting Monday night, Chief Tammy Hooper acknowledged the supervisor also did not follow protocol in following up with reports and other details after showing up to the scene of the use-of-force incident more than six months ago.

Rush confirmed to News 13 he spoke to Sgt. Lisa Taube, who he said accused him of lying when he tried to tell her how Hickman and trainee Verino Ruggiero held him down in cuffs as Hickman beat him.

“You're pushing against me!” Hickman is heard telling Rush as he worked to arrest him. Rush denied it, as Hickman continued to overpower Rush. The video was released to the Citizen-Times that broke the story last week.

Within minutes, Taube arrived. Her name badge can be seen in the bodycam footage recorded off Hickman’s camera.

“Are you ok? Are you ok?” she asked with Rush nearby.

Rush has told News 13 that Taube refused to believe his story, choosing to believe Hickman’s account, captured on his bodycam video as he talked to Taube. Hickman is heard telling Taube on the bodycam audio recording his account of what he said Rush did.

“Ran, laughing, saying f— you. Can’t wait till you catch me, so we caught him.”

On the video, Rush cannot be heard, as he ran away from Hickman and Ruggiero.

“Then he wanted to fight,” Hickman said to Taub. “Tried to drag the taser out of my hand. Then I just went off on his f— head. I beat the s— out of his head.”

City manager Gary Jackson said this of the supervisor’s actions.

APD's professional standards unit learned that a supervisor responded to the scene that night to initiate a review of Hickman's force. That supervisor, however, despite being told by Hickman, he struck Rush in the head with his taser. and despite Mr. Rush saying he was choked, did not immediately forward any information or complete notes of those interviews with Hickman and Rush.

Officials said Taube did not review the footage as required by APD rules, “because of that conduct related to this incident, that supervisor ultimately received discipline for unsatisfactory performance."

"There were some issues with the supervisor,” Hooper said during an interview with News 13. "I think the intent of the supervisor was to do a more thorough review later, but that's not acceptable. So the supervisor dropped the ball."

Now, the city will ask a judge to release additional footage from the scene that night where other officers were present.

A total of 11 officers are cited as being in the videos and recordings, including Taube. That hearing is set for Monday, March 26, and will be before a Buncombe County Superior Court judge. The hearing is expected to be open to the public.

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