Community anger spills over during APD advisory committee meeting

AN ERUPTION: An attendee at the Citizens Police Advisory Committee meeting on Wednesday points accusingly at the officials on stage. Photo by Carolyn Morrisroe

A volcanic surge of outrage met members of Asheville’s Citizens Police Advisory Committee on March 7.

During a meeting at the Dr. Wesley Grant Sr. Southside Center, a packed room of Asheville citizens confronted members of the committee, government officials and members of the Asheville Police Department, including Chief Tammy Hooper, with personal stories and calls for reform.

The CPAC meeting occurred about a week after the Asheville Citizen Times published leaked body camera footage showing former Asheville Police Senior Officer Chris Hickman, who is white, beating Asheville resident Johnnie Jermaine Rush, who is African-American.

“The value of this process is allowing everyone here the opportunity to be heard,” Hooper said. “To express your feelings and your outrage and for us to take that and try to work toward making things better for our entire community as we move forward.”

Officials on stage buckled under a torrent of emotion from members of the audience. Many citizens were visibly upset. Some were crying, and speakers frequently interrupted each other. At least one member of the audience called for the mayor, city attorney and city manager to be fired, and another asked Hooper if she would resign.

“I’m happy to resign if that’s going the solve the problem,” Hooper said.

Resident DeLores Venable said the large crowd came to call out entrenched racism and structural racial bias in Asheville.

“We have been here over and over and over again,” Venable said. She pointed to the stage, indicating the source of the blame. “Every single person on this stage is part of the system.

“We’ve all been talked to like dogs, trash,” Venable said. “We’re not valued. We have no voice in this system. That is what Asheville is. They believe in tourism. They don’t believe in the people who make this city run.”

Southside resident Priscilla Ndiaye said she has seen a pattern of response when the Asheville Police Department comes under fire. “I know there’s a lot of hurt, anger and pain in this room,” Ndiaye said, “but I just want to stand and say that I’m tired of coming to these types of meetings, and I’ll be here [and there’s] all this screaming and hollering back and forth and we leave out, and nothing is accomplished. Nothing. We go away until something else happens, and then we come back again.”

Rondell Lance, the president of the Fraternal Order of Police and a candidate for Buncombe County Sheriff, said the video is disgusting and broke his heart.

OUT IN FORCE: A large crowd of Asheville residents attended the Citizen/Police Advisory Committee meeting on Wednesday to air grievances after body cam footage was leaked showing an APD officer beating an African-American Asheville resident. Photo by Carolyn Morrisroe
OUT IN FORCE: A large crowd of Asheville residents attended the Citizens Police Advisory Committee meeting on March 7 to air grievances after leaked body camera footage showed a white Asheville police officer beating an African-American Asheville resident. Photo by Carolyn Morrisroe

“All I ask of the community, all I ask of you is don’t judge the rest of those officers there because of Chris Hickman,” he said. “Chris Hickman is the one that is at fault.”

Recent City Council candidate Dee Williams said a small group of people runs Asheville — people who ostracize those who are not acquiescent. “I hate that this gentleman got beat, but he isn’t the first one and he won’t be the last,” Williams said. “Not unless we do something decisive. We have got to stop talking so much and start doing.”

Nicole Townsend, another Asheville resident, told the committee she didn’t originally plan to speak but approached the microphone because she couldn’t help thinking about her nephew.

“My nephew is 8,” Townsend said. “He loves chicken nuggets and firetrucks and ice cream and hugging me and being the cutest, sweetest little kid he could possible be. My nephew is also a little black boy.” She’s concerned about how police officers will see him as he grows older.

She also told a story about her own run-in with Asheville police when she was 19. Late at night, she sat in the car talking with a friend, an African-American man, outside her mother’s house. One of her mother’s neighbors called the police, and when officers arrived at the scene, they asked to check Townsend’s and her friend’s ID.

HEATWAVE: Asheville Police Chief Tammy Hooper responds to a surge of outrage expressed by Asheville citizens at a Citizen/Police Advisory Committee meeting on Wednesday. Photo by Carolyn Morrisroe
HEATWAVE: Asheville Police Chief Tammy Hooper responds to a surge of outrage expressed by Asheville citizens at a Citizens Police Advisory Committee meeting on March 7. Photo by Carolyn Morrisroe

“The officer said to me, ‘The next time y’all want to talk at 2 a.m., you can go to Denny’s,’” Townsend said. “For me, that moment was very clear that existing while black is a crime in Asheville.”

Quentin Miller, a candidate for Buncombe County Sheriff this year and a sergeant in the Asheville Police Department, said during his time as an officer, he’s seen a lot of things — both good and bad.

“[The beating] did happen,” Miller said. “We can’t say it didn’t. … But what are we going to do now?”

He also came to Hooper’s defense. “Before we even start giving her [Chief Hooper] the boot … we’ve got to come together and talk about this. OK? Because I’m just telling you, if we get someone else in here, guess what, they might be worse than y’all think Chief Hooper is.”

Reporting by Carolyn Morrisroe


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About David Floyd
David Floyd was a reporter for the Mountain Xpress. He previously worked as a general-assignment reporter for the Johnson City Press.

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18 thoughts on “Community anger spills over during APD advisory committee meeting

  1. Nanne Epstein

    Why would you use a picture of a black man looking angry and pointing his finger and simultaneously headline The article as pertaining to an angry white officer beating up a black man. You are just reinforcing the same message. Not intelligent at ALL. At least have the picture be the opposite or else you already lost me Bro.

    • Virginia Daffron

      Thank you for your comment. The article is about the community’s reaction to the police body camera video of a white officer beating a black citizen. The person pictured is a member of the community who expressed his distress at the violent actions of the APD officer. Far from demonizing this man’s understandable anger, the photo reflects what he attended the meeting to convey.

      • Mike jackson

        I’m not a Demon..Didn’t like the manner in which Chairman address one of our elders in community. .Talking down to this elder fired me up ..many would have did same..We are very angry to the point of eruption..Yes..ERUPTION.

  2. Steve Wilkinson

    You put your health & life on the line when you pull away or run from the Law like that..I’m not excusing what the officers did, but, always oblige an officers commands when your life crosses the Law..You see the results if you don’t no matter who’s in the right or wrong..

    • Lulz

      Police are enforces not protectors. That’s where many make the mistake of thinking their safety is the concern of the police. Unfortunately some learn the hard way.

    • Paul Varjak

      “You see the results if you don’t no matter who’s in the right or wrong.”

      Of course, that’s the issue — the “results” were inappropriate and excessive. If a child is instructed to clean their room and doesn’t comply, does that give the parent cause to beat the child unconscious? In this example, would you simply say: “Well, the child should have cleaned their room!”?

      Yes, I agree that a person should not attempt to resist or flee a police officer, but that’s not the main point.

  3. John Penley

    In the hope that Chief Hooper and others will see this I am commenting. I am not sure yet whether the Chief should resign or not but I do suspect that the Asheville Police department selectively enforces the trespassing in parking lots and jaywalking laws. I would like to see some data and Mr. Kapoor I hope that you and others would too..Can you get the data from the APD on these arrests and tell us what percentage are African American and other minorities ? What percentage are White ? What percentage are homeless ? How many of these arrests are Tourists or non residents ? I would like to suggest also that if the owners of these lots are concerned about people walking through them they should fence the lots off. As someone who has been homeless myself in Asheville for a brief period of time and who attended many meetings of the Asheville homeless network I can state for a fact that homeless people, especially in the downtown area, are targeted for the arrests and at the weekly meetings people always complained about this. I also would be willing to bet that no tourists are arrested in the downtown are for these “crimes”. Thank you and I have also suggested that the Asheville Citizen Times and WLOS request this data as well to see if what has been going on with trespassing and jaywalking arrests amounts to selective arrest and prosecution.

  4. don

    And lets be clear here. Todd Williams apparently did very little when informed about this…. he as much as the APD are complicit in this. There would be no criminal investigation until the leaking of the video brought forth this angry (and rightly so) reaction from the community.

  5. wherearetheprogressiveprotests?

    Interesting that the white leftists are not out marching in the streets protesting racism in their community. No problem ginning up hate when Trump came to Asheville and the white leftist lined the street across from the civic center throwing the middle finger at Trump supporters; and today, I hear they were out protesting animal cruelty at the AG Center…but but but….nada about the police brutality and racism in “the San Francisco of the South”.. The Chamber of Commerce must be frantically figuring out a way to not have Asheville awarded the title of worst small city to be black and jay walking. And the fine arts district must be busily white washing the city’s image….such hypocrites we have living here.

  6. Enlightened Enigma

    People inside or outside AVL have NO idea what kind of problems are inherent within city govco or the housing authority … see city letter # 11 …

    OH, and what about that city BOND SCAM lawsuit to stop it ? not much news on that …hmm…

    • Enlightened Enigma

      make that city letter #11 … folks AVL has a problem.

  7. don

    Okay, let’s get back on subject here (we know the crazy mtnx trolls want to connect all the dots….. even the ones that aren’t actually on the page lol ;) Anyway, Chief Hooper, despite her politically correct qualifications (and everyone knows precisely what those are….) needs to be let go. Her five months of inaction in regard to this egregious and racist beating are unacceptable and can’t be explained away. Period.

  8. J

    Anyone seen the signs on the street warning jaywalkers they are subject to police abuse? Classic!

    Us white folks need to get over our white privilege by acknowledging it exists. Black folks should bring a white friend with them when they go out after dark. Kidding. It is the same with women as it is with black folks, can’t go out by themselves for fear of someone messing with them. This needs to stop. NO ONE should be afraid to go out to downtown Asheville for any reason.

  9. Richard B.

    It was four days ago, but must acknowledge the hard hitting but sobering comment by WhereAretheProgressiveProtests?
    Can those who the writer accused of being hypocrites perhaps take a moment and reflect on why this was felt to be the case?

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