SAN DIEGO (AP) – A former San Diego area police officer who pushed a black man in an arrest last year was acquitted Friday of lying about his report on the incident, which has was captured on video and sparked nationwide looting and arson. troubles.
A jury deliberated for three days before finding former La Mesa police officer Matthew Dages not guilty on one count of false testimony. Dages, 30, lowered his head to his chest in relief after the verdict was read.
Defense attorney Jeremiah J. Sullivan III criticized San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan for pursuing the case.
“The progressive DA chooses criminals over cops,” he told The Associated Press.
Stephan issued a statement saying she was “proud that my team fought courageously for justice without prejudice or favor to anyone”.
“The integrity of our criminal justice system depends on the filing of truthful police reports by the police, and our careful examination of the facts and evidence has led us to lay the charge and present the case to the jury,” he said. she declared.
Dages said he was truthful when he wrote in his report that Amaurie Johnson, 24, clenched his fists and assumed a fighting stance when he arrested him for smoking on a platform. cart on May 27, 2020. He also said Johnson hit his arm.
A video taken by a witness and posted to social media showed the white cop grabbing and pushing Johnson off a concrete bench. Johnson was arrested for resisting arrest, but has not been charged with a felony and has not been cited for smoking.
The incident fueled racial tensions in the normally calm suburb as protesters claimed Johnson had been singled out for being black. It came two days after the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis sparked nationwide protests against police brutality.
Witness video shows Johnson telling the officer to “shut up the (curse)”. At one point, the man says he’s arrested because he’s black. “This is what it is about,” he said.
Body camera images show that the commute continued on the journey to the police station.
The officer said, “Did I feel threatened when you put your hands on me? No, because I’m not afraid of you, but I’m not going to let you get a hold of me. Johnson denied the allegation and said he was trying to get rid of him.
Johnson testified at the officer’s trial that he did not smoke. He admitted to slapping the officer’s hand, but said he did not clench his fists or take a fighting stance.
Dages, who served two years in the La Mesa Police Force, was fired after the incident. He faced up to three years in prison if convicted.
Tensions over Johnson’s treatment erupted into violent protests in La Mesa on May 30, 2020. Two banks were set on fire, a fire engine burned down and other businesses looted in the town of about 60,000 residents in the is from San Diego.
Authorities fired tear gas to disperse the crowd. Protester Leslie Furcron, 59, was hit in the eyes with a round ottoman and hospitalized.
The county appealed to the California National Guard, who arrived five days later to prevent further violence.
Associated Press writer Elliot Spagat in San Diego contributed to this report.