Updated to include comments from Councilmember Laura Lothian.
By Miriam Raftery
December 12, 2021 (La Mesa) – On May 30th last year, racial justice protests in La Mesa were fueled in part by a viral video of a white police officer’s treatment of a young black man, Amaurie Johnson, at a trolley stop as well as by the killing of George Floyd, a black man, by a Minneapolis police officer.
Johnson was initially charged with assaulting an officer and resisting arrest, but charges were dropped after police body camera footage and a viral video failed to substantiate the officer’s allegation. Video showed the Officer Matt Dages grabbing Johnson’s shirt and pushing him into a seated position and Johnson putting up a hand in response, briefly brushing his fingers against the officer.
Protests turned violent after dark, including the burning down of two banks and a historic building, actions that terrorized many La Mesa residents.
Dages was fired by the city and criminally charged with falsifying a police report; charges against Johnson were dropped.
But now a jury has found OfficerDages not guilty. In addition, Ricky Bernard Cooper, who pleaded guilty to lighting papers on fire inside Chase Bank which burned to the ground as well as to looting businesses, was sentenced to probation after serving just 100 days in jail.