Recorded on police body cam video arresting an innocent man without probable cause, a former California police officer was recently charged with a felony count of falsifying a police report.
On May 27, 2020, La Mesa Police Officer Matt Dages approached Amaurie Johnson near a trolley station in Grossmont, California. Despite the fact that Officer Dages did not have any probable cause to detain Johnson, police body cam footage revealed Dages grabbing Johnson by the arm and throwing him onto a bench.
Johnson attempted to explain that he had been sitting on the bench waiting for his friends to pick him up and that Dages had no reason to detain him. Instead of allowing Johnson to leave when his friends arrived, Dages handcuffed his hands behind his back and placed him under arrest.
According to the video, Johnson did not fight back. He was arrested on suspicion of assault on an officer and resisting, delaying, or obstructing an officer.
Dages falsely accused Johnson of smoking in public in order to justify probable cause for detaining him. But according to the video and the other officers, no drugs or any drug paraphernalia were found at the scene.
After reviewing several police body cam videos of the incident, prosecutors dropped the charges against Johnson. In July 2020, Johnson filed a lawsuit alleging negligence, excessive force, violence, and arrest without probable cause against the city of La Mesa and the arresting officers.
Dages was placed on leave while under investigation. On August 7, 2020, he was fired from the La Mesa Police Department.
On Monday, the San Diego District Attorney’s Office announced that Dages has been charged with a felony count of falsifying the police report in Johnson’s arrest.
“Dages is accused of falsifying the reason for Johnson’s detention as well as his actions,” San Diego District Attorney Summer Stephan said in a written statement. “Everyone is accountable under the law and as we’ve done previously, we will file criminal charges when they are supported by facts and evidence. My office’s Special Operations division of specialized prosecutors and investigators is dedicated to the principles of conducting fair, thorough and independent reviews of public corruption and police misconduct cases with the goal of enhancing public trust and pursuing justice.”
La Mesa Acting Chief of Police Ray Sweeney issued the following statement: “We have worked closely with the San Diego District Attorney’s Office over the past several months on this matter. The La Mesa Police Department holds each and every member of the Department to the highest standards of integrity in order to protect and serve our community and keep its trust.”
In a social media post, Johnson wrote, “I’m thankful for the DA’s decision to pursue charges against former officer Dages. Now it’s time for this drawn out legal process. I’ll do my part to make sure there is justice. Tough times don’t last but tough people do.”
If convicted, Dages could face up to three years in prison.