May 16, 2012 Katie Bailey/Carolina Public Press

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A prominent Charlotte civil rights law firm is deciding whether to sue the city of Asheville over an incident in which a white Asheville Police Department officer apparently beat, strangled and used a stun-gun on a black pedestrian, Carolina Public Press confirmed Friday.

Attorney James Ferguson, of Ferguson, Chambers & Sumter, is representing the beating victim, Johnnie Jermaine Rush.

Ferguson told Carolina Public Press on Friday that the firm is investigating the details of the case and a lawsuit against the city of Asheville is “in the mix” as the firm consults with its client.

Since the footage has become public knowledge and gained national attention, former Asheville Police Officer Chris Hickman faces criminal charges.

The State Bureau of Investigation initially declined to investigate the case; now the Federal Bureau of Investigation is reportedly conducting an investigation. The city of Asheville has filed a petition with Buncombe County Superior Court for the formal release of police video, including the one leaked to the (Asheville) Citizen-Times and others not yet publicly released.

The firm representing Rush is no stranger to high-profile civil rights cases including seeking justice for the “Wilmington 10” and for school desegregation in Charlotte. Ferguson has said on the firm website that his guiding mission is “giving a voice to the voiceless.”

Ferguson is no stranger to civil rights issues in Buncombe County, where he lived as a child.

As a high school student in Asheville, Ferguson was active in efforts to desegregate the public library, Kress five-and-dime lunch counter and local grocery stores, according to a profile of him from Super Lawyers.

Editor’s note: Carolina Public Press has also published an in-depth look at the legal situation that is keeping more of the police video footage involving Hickman and Rush out of the public view.

Frank Taylor

Frank Taylor is the managing editor of Carolina Public Press. Contact him at ftaylor@carolinapublicpress.org.

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