A former Asheville, North Carolina police officer pleaded guilty Friday to assaulting a black man in 2017, according to the Buncombe County District Attorney.
Christopher Hickman was charged in the assault after body camera leaked last year showing him beating and strangling Johnny Rush on Aug. 25, 2017, according to WLOS.
The case attracted national attention after the Asheville Citizen-Times published the leaked video. “The video showed Rush being beaten, shocked and held by the throat. Rush can be heard crying out that he can’t breathe,” the newspaper reports.
According to the Citizen-Times, “The intensity and racial overtones of the incident rocked the city and preceded the exit of the city manager and three top APD officials. City leaders issued mandates for police reforms.”
Buncombe County District Attorney Todd Williams said the plea deal came from what he called “ground-breaking restorative justice practices to better serve victims and to facilitate community healing.”
The idea behind restorative justice involves “mediation between victims and perpetrators,” Williams said, and “admission of responsibility by the perpetrator, and a commitment to follow through on actions to minimize further harm.”
In a meeting between the two men, the former police officer said, “I pretty much left you with no choice and I left myself with no choice on how I’m supposed to react and that’s not what I want to do for either one of us, but that’s on me,” according to the DA.
”I’m sorry about that and I’m sorry that that situation happened and I’m sorry that the mistakes that I made made it get to that point.”
Williams said he believes this is the first time a police brutality case has been handled through this type of process.
Hickman was sentenced to 12 months of probation and community service, according to the district attorney. If he completes the year and the requirement in the deal, he can have the charges dismissed and expunged.