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La Mesa Police Body Camera Video Footage Reveals Little

A still from a video of Amaurie Johnson being detained by a La Mesa police of...

Credit: Courtesy of Amaurie Johnson

Above: A still from a video of Amaurie Johnson being detained by a La Mesa police officer on May 27, 2020.

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The new footage from an incident that sparked outrage doesn’t reveal new details in a man’s encounter with police officers.

Aired: June 4, 2020 | Transcript

In their first press conference since last weekend’s protests, La Mesa city officials released the body cam footage from the arrest of Amaurie Johnson, an African American man who was arrested last week on charges of assaulting a police officer.

Until Wednesday, a video recorded by a witness to the arrest had been circulating on social media. The body camera footage released by the La Mesa Police Department reveals few other details surrounding the circumstances of Johnson’s arrest. Police Chief Walt Vasquez said a third-party will investigate the incident and declined to provide further comment.

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“At this time we have to let the investigation run its course,” he said. “At this time, I did review the video. It’s not prudent for me to … make a comment on it.”

The video that circulated on social media shows Officer Matt Dages pushing Johnson onto a public bench and handcuffing him. Bystanders in the video sound outraged about the treatment.

The police body camera video shows Dages approaching Amaurie Johnson waiting at an apartment complex across from the Grossmont trolley station. Vasquez said Dages approached Johnson because he was smoking in a prohibited area.

DISCLAIMER: This video contains strong language, which may be offensive to some viewers and inappropriate for children. Viewer discretion is advised.

Dages later arrested Johnson on misdemeanor charges for assaulting a police officer, resisting arrest and delaying an officer. He was not charged for smoking in a prohibited area.

“The officer made a decision on exactly what to charge Mr. Johnson with,” Vasquez said.

The video shows Dages driving Johnson in his police cruiser after the arrest.

“Dude I was out talking to you, and then you put your hands on me,” Dages says in the video.

Johnson is heard disputing Dages’ recollection of the events.

“I was getting you from not touching me because you were holding me and stuff like that,” Johnson said in the video. “All I was telling you the whole time was that my friend was coming.”

La Mesa Mayor Mark Arapostathis also announced that the city’s police department will ban police officers’ use of the carotid restraint, in which an officer holds a suspect by the neck.

Additionally, Vasquez announced that the police department has identified the police officer who fired the rubber bullet that struck Leslie Furcron, the 59-year-old San Diego resident who was hospitalized after witnesses said the bullet was embedded in her forehead.

Community members exchanged heated words with city officials throughout the press conference, not only about Johnson’s arrest but also about the violence against protestors over the weekend.

“If you are not an officer who will arrest a bad officer, a rogue officer, or an officer who was violating policy or law, you are not a good officer,” said Tasha Williamson, a community activist who spoke during the news briefing.

“I saw not one good officer on Saturday,” said Williamson, fighting back tears.

Regarding the body camera footage, Williamson said she wants Dages fired.

“We want police departments across the city and the county to do what they were supposed to do, to protect and to serve,” she said.

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La Mesa city officials on Wednesday released the body cam footage from the arrest of Amaurie Johnson, an African American man who was arrested last week on charges of assaulting a police officer. . Also on KPBS’ San Diego News Matters podcast: For a sixth straight day, protesters calling for an end to police brutality demonstrated across San Diego County, ... Read more →

Aired: June 4, 2020 | Transcript

This story has been updated to clarify the location of the incident.

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Joe Hong
Education Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksAs an education reporter, I'm always looking for stories about learning. My favorite education stories put a student's face on bigger policy issues. I regularly sift through enrollment data, test scores and school budgets, but telling student-centered stories is my top priority.

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