By Miriam Raftery
January 4, 2020 (La Mesa) -- San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan announced today that a criminal charge has been filed against a former La Mesa Police Officer in connection with an arrest of Amaurie Johnson, 23, near the Grossmont trolley station in La Mesa. The criminal complaint alleges that on May 28, 2020, Officer Matthew Dages, 30, filed a police report that contained false information.
The incident was shown in a video that went viral on social media, sparking racial justice protests. The Dages incident occurred three days after the killing of George Floyd by a white police officer in Minneapolis triggered nationwide protests and two days before a riot resulted in looting, vandalism and the burning down of three buildings in La Mesa. The Johnson arrest has been likened to the fuse that ignited a powder keg of explosive rage over mistreatment of black suspects by white police officers.
Dages is accused of falsifying the reason for Johnson’s detention as well as his actions. Police body camera footage failed to back up Dages’ claim that Johnson had assaulted the officer and instead showed Dages pushing Johnson into a seated position.
The former LMPD officer is charged with one felony count of filing a false report pursuant to Penal Code section 118.1. If convicted, he faces up to three years in prison.
Dages had been employed as a La Mesa police officer since 2018, but was terminated due to this incident. The termination was recently upheld by the City of La Mesa Personnel Appeals Board after a hearing.
Johnson has filed a civil lawsuit against the city and Dages.
District Attorney Summer Stephan issued this statement:
“When someone in a position of trust such as a police officer commits a crime, it causes tremendous harm and shakes the community’s confidence in those who are sworn to protect them. 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.”
ECM has sent a message to Johnson seeking comment, but he has not yet responded.
Dages is expected to be arraigned on March 9 at 1:30 p.m. The hearing will be held remotely due to COVID-19 precautions in East County.