Buncombe County District Attorney Todd Williams announced that he’s dropping 27 cases brought by Chris Hickman, who recently resigned from the Asheville Police Department and is being investigated by the FBI. The cases involve 17 defendants and “included some felonies and DWIs,” according to the Citizen Times. “These are cases where officer Hickman was the sole and necessary witness, where he was critical to the case,” Williams told the paper.
Body-cam footage released earlier this month showed Hickman tasering and beating Johnnie Rush, a 33-year-old black man who was stopped for allegedly jaywalking last August. The episode prompted a strong backlash, including a community meeting in which the police chief offered to resign and the appearance of unauthorized signs around town warning that jaywalkers could be “subject to abuse” by local police.
I wrote on Monday about how Rush’s case fits a larger pattern of police officers disproportionately using jaywalking laws against black pedestrians, sometimes with tragic results. When cities and states empower police officers to stop pedestrians for the most trivial crime imaginable, unnecessary conflicts are bound to occur. The dropped cases also show how the impact of police brutality in one case can radiate throughout the criminal-justice system.