UPDATED Jan 29, 2019 – 10 am: Just hours after this story was posted Asheville Police responded to a call at Johnnie Rush’s and arrested him for alleged drug possession. More details about this late breaking news are found here in this video report.
By Chad Nesbitt
Asheville – Questions surround the Asheville Police Department’s handling of a January 18th, 2019, call to the Eagle Market Place Apartments. According to witnesses, four Asheville Police Department (APD) cruisers responded to the apartment of Asheville resident Johnnie Rush.
Area residents may remember Rush made national news when he was arrested for resisting arrest after being stopped for jaywalking August 25th, 2017. The incident leads to the arrest and dismissal of Asheville Police Officer Chris Hickman, who was fired from the force and charged with beating and strangling Rush, after a police body cam video of the incident was leaked to the press. Rush settled a lawsuit with the city for $650,000.
The Leader looked on the Asheville Police’s P2 website, a website where police incident reports are posted for the public, but could not find an incident report. As of the time of the posting of this article, the incident report is still not posted there, a fact that several unnamed officers find strange.
With much persistence, the Leader finally obtained the incident report from the APD. The public record incident report lists the name of the victim, which the Leader is withholding, and lists the call as involving communicating a threat to her. The incident report did not list the person who communicated the threat.
However, the report does list the address of the incident. The Leader went to the address on the incident report. The apartment number listed on the incident report had the name Johnnie Rush on the intercom system leading to the secured front entrance of the apartment building.
Ringing the apartment number using the intercom system in order to reach Mr. Rush, an unidentified man answered. The man sounded strange, did not want to answer questions, and our reporter waited for the man to come down to speak with him. The man never came. Neighbors who lived in the building confirmed Rush did live in that apartment. After speaking with neighbors and unnamed law enforcement officers familiar with the call the Leader has learned details of the threat, which includes more than communicating a threat but are awaiting a transcript of the 911 call for confirmation of our information.
In an email, Public Relations Officer for APD, Christina Hallingse, said, “These calls were reviewed and it was determined that they require transcribing pursuant to NCGS 132-1.4. Once we receive those transcriptions they will be available for release. The timeline for release is sometime mid to the end of this week.” The Leader has learned that the incident report was taken by Officer McCain and the case was then handed over to a Lt. Aardema for investigation.
Communicating a threat is a misdemeanor in North Carolina and Asheville’s Fraternal Order of Police President Rondell Lance finds it strange that such a case would be given to a high ranking officer for investigation. “It’s strange they, (APD), would give a misdemeanor case to a sergeant or a lieutenant,” Lance said. “That doesn’t make sense why they would give it to, (Lieutenant), Aardema.” Lance explained, “Usually the lieutenants send cases down to detectives unless they want to keep it close because it’s Rush…They are evidently afraid of him, (Rush).”
WHERE IS THE VICTIM?
The Leader called the phone number of the victim listed on the incident report trying to get more details of the incident. A man answered and said he was the victim’s stepfather. He would not give his name and said he “has not seen [the victim] in weeks.”
Obtaining another number for the victim, the Leader tried contacting the victim there and a woman, who claimed to be the victim’s mother, answered. The woman said she and her daughter had been in an “argument” and she has not seen her “daughter in a couple of months.” The mother said, “The police have called me several times looking for her, but I can’t find her.”
The Leader has now learned former APD Officer Chris Hickman’s, trial set for Monday, January 28th, has been postponed by Buncombe County District Attorney Todd Williams. Sources at the district attorney’s office tell the Leader they have not been able to “get a hold of Rush since last weekend” (the weekend of the incident report).
MORE ON THE RUSH INCIDENT
The Rush incident came after APD officers started stricter enforcement of jaywalking laws after the Asheville City Council formed the Multimodal Transportation Commission and ordered the police department to issue tickets for jaywalking. The order came after a North Carolina Transportation report gave the city a bad rating for pedestrian accidents.
APD officers asked Rush twice not to jaywalk. The second time officers spoke with Rush an argument ensued. Rush ran from police officers and resisted arrest. The incident leads to the arrest and dismissal of Asheville Police Officer Chris Hickman, who was charged with beating and strangling Rush, after a police body cam video of the incident was leaked to the press. The leaked video put Former Asheville Chief of Police Tammy Hooper under scrutiny for her handling of the incident.
The City of Asheville put up a website to show all police body cam footage from the incident. The footage sparked outrage among Asheville City Council, political activists, and the community. A Rush lawsuit against the city was settled for $650,000 even before Hickman had his day in court.