A former San Diego County police officer is finding out the hard way that—especially considering the national spotlight on systemic racism in policing in America—he can’t just go around handling Black people any kind of way and then lie about what went down in his report. Not only was the officer fired for manhandling a Black man he accused of smoking in public—which the Black man said he never did—but he’s now facing a felony charge for filing a false report after making an arrest.
CBS 8 reports that former La Mesa Police Officer Matthew Dages is charged in connection with filing a false report after his May 27 arrest of 23-year-old Amaurie Johnson—an understandably controversial arrest, considering that it came two days after the in-custody death of George Floyd.
Dages is accused of “falsifying the reason for Johnson’s detention as well as his actions,” the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office announced Monday. If he’s convicted, he will face up to three years in state prison. Police body-camera footage released by the La Mesa Police Department damn sure indicates that the punishment would be well-earned.
“I think it’s relief in seeing that something is actually being done,” Troy Owens, the attorney representing Johnson, told Channel 8, “and that this is not just a situation that’s being swept under the rug.”
Shortly after the arrest, then-La Mesa Police Department Chief Walt Vasquez said Johnson was initially contacted for smoking in public, then later arrested on suspicion of assault on an officer, and resisting, delaying and obstructing an officer.
He was released on a misdemeanor citation.
The police department announced in early June that it would not be seeking charges against Johnson.
Dages, who had been employed by the department since 2018, was fired in August. The firing was upheld last month by the city’s Personnel Appeals Board.
Johnson filed a federal lawsuit this summer against Dages and the city of La Mesa.
According to his court papers, he was waiting to be picked up by friends outside of a La Mesa apartment complex when he was approached by officers. Johnson tried to walk away from Dages, but was pushed, then had his arm “violently grabbed,” his body “forcefully jerked,” was “aggressively pushed” into a seated position, and then was placed in an arm-bar by Dages, according to the lawsuit.
Looking at the body-cam footage, it doesn’t even seem like Johnson was trying to walk away from Dages. It looks more like he’s pacing back and forth (or trying to), likely agitated by the fact that he can’t sit down and wait for a ride without being harassed. (I mean, most Black men are used to racial profiling in America, but it does take its toll.) He can even be heard saying to Dages and other officers, “Obviously nobody going nowhere,” while Dages continued grabbing Johnson by his shirt.
“Get the fuck up off of me. What the fuck is you grabbing me for, bruh?” Johnson can be heard saying. “You look goofy as hell, bro, stop touching me. I told you I was waiting for someone to come here; they right here, bro.”
Now, y’all know how cops are. Even if they know they’re in the wrong, their egos often won’t let them tolerate a Black person vocally expressing their aggravation, even in response to a situation where aggravation is easily understandable. Now, is that what happened here? Well, I don’t know—but yes.
Anyway, according to CBS, Dages is expected to be arraigned on March 9 at the East County Regional Center in El Cajon.
You can view footage of Johnson’s arrest below.