ASHEVILLE – The city is on the verge of paying a settlement to the unarmed pedestrian who was beaten, shocked and choked by a police officer after being accused of jaywalking last August.
That is according to statements by Mayor Esther Manheimer Wednesday and a tentative agenda item scheduled for the City Council Aug. 28 titled “Announcement – Settlement of Johnnie Rush lawsuit.”
Manheimer said the amount to be paid to Rush had been finalized but hadn’t yet been made public because there were a few steps left in the civil settlement.
“The lawyers are still hashing out, not the amount, but some logisticis about how it’s being structured,” the mayor said Wednesday.
While officials are withholding the settlement figure, it’s assumed to be sizeable. At an April 10 discussion about the city budget Councilman Vijay Kapoor named it as a variable that would have a impact on the city’s finances, which this year reached $180 million in spending, including the water system’s costs.
The council 10 years ago settled a 2005 case involving police, agreeing to give $1.5 million to Jeffery Brown of Candler and the family of Mark Wayne Thompson of Leicester. Thompson was killed and Brown was severely injured after the truck they were in was struck by a car driving the wrong way on an Interstate 240 ramp. Police were pursuing the driver, John Timothy Reynolds Jr., 28, of Arden, who was also killed in the crash, after his estranged girlfriend called 911 and said he threatened her child and younger brother.
Manheimer said she anticipated being able to sign the settlement this week.
Rush’s attorney James Ferguson could not be reached Wednesday.
In such settlements, recipients often arrange for payment to be stretched over years to reduce potential taxes.
Manheimer said the council voted in closed session to authorize her to sign the settlement when it is ready. The council may make an official statement Aug. 28 through a resolution, she said.
The officer involved in the beating, Chris Hickman, is facing in state court one felony charge of assault by strangulation as well as two misdemeanor charges, assault inflicting serious injury and communicating threats.
Federal prosecutors looked into the case as a potential civil rights violation but decided in June not to proceed with legal action.
Few knew of the incident until publication of Hickman’s leaked body camera footage in February by the Citizen Times. That put Asheville at the center of national news and caused upheaval in city government, including the dismissal of then-city manager Gary Jackson.