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By Miriam Raftery

April 13, 2022 (La Mesa) – The city of La Mesa’s decision to fire La Mesa Police Officer Matt Dages in 2020 was “supported by the weight of the evidence”, according to a tentative ruling issued by Superior Court Judge Katherine Bacal.  According to the Judge, the evidence showed that Dages provided “false and misleading” information in his report on his arrest of Amaurie Johnson.

Viral video of the arrest sparked outrage two days before a racial justice protest on May 30, 2020 ended in a riot in which three buildings burned to the ground. The La Mesa protest was originally planned over the killing of George Floyd, a black man, by a white police officer in Minneapolis, but the perceived racial profiling of Johnson, who is black, by Dages made La Mesa a target of outrage.

“I am thankful for the patience, cooperation and courtesy exhibited by all parties during the lengthy and tedious process leading up to the Judge’s ruling,” said City Attorney Glenn Sabine.

Various other videos surfaced including police body camera footage from several officers.  Video showed Dages grabbing and pushing Johnson. The officer accused Dages of smoking near a trolley stop and not paying a fare, but the investigation failed to substantiate those claims and found that Johnson was not smoking. Dages also claimed Johnson assaulted him, striking his arm, and that Johnson made fists and assumed a fighting stance, none of which is seen in the videos.

Dages’ attorneys claimed his report was honest based on his perceptions during the incident.

Though Johnson was detained on suspicion of assault and resisting arrest, the police department opted not to file charges against Johnson. The city fired Dages August 7, 2020 and in December 2020, the city’s personnel board upheld the decision.

Both sides will have an opportunity to present arguments Friday before a final decision is issued in the case filed against the city by Dages, who seeks to get his job back after a jury found him not guilty on a related criminal charge of lying in his report.

Johnson has filed a lawsuit against the city of La Mesa, alleging that his civil rights were violated by Dages.


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