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La Mesa To Launch Investigation After Video Shows Officer Detaining Black Man

A still from a video of Amaurie Johnson being detained by former La Mesa police Officer Matthew Dages on May 27, 2020.
Courtesy of Amaurie Johnson
A still from a video of Amaurie Johnson being detained by former La Mesa police Officer Matthew Dages on May 27, 2020.

Investigators Friday were looking into a La Mesa police officer's use of force while detaining a black man outside an apartment complex near a trolley station on Wednesday, after video of the incident was widely circulated on social media.

The video, posted on Instagram and Youtube Wednesday night, shows an encounter between the officer and Amaurie Johnson.

The nearly six-minute video begins when Johnson and the officer are arguing while standing face to face. The officer then pushes Johnson into a sitting position on a concrete bench and holds onto his arm.


A short time later, Johnson stands up again and the officer pushes him back down onto the bench, then puts him in handcuffs as other officers arrive.

Johnson was later told on the video that he was being arrested on suspicion of assaulting an officer.

At one point in the video, Johnson says he was waiting for people, who had arrived and planned to leave.

About four minutes into the video, the man being arrested tells one officer at the scene, "I already know what it is. I'm black as f* out here. That's what the issue is."

The police officer, whose name has not been released, was put on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation, according to the La Mesa Police Department.


"We immediately began a review of the incident to find out what happened," the department said in a statement Thursday. "The La Mesa Police Department takes all allegations of misconduct very seriously and asks that any member of the public with information or video regarding this incident contact us at 619-667-1400."

It was not immediately clear how the incident began and the La Mesa Police Department has not released additional details about the arrest.

In a statement, the city announced Thursday that an outside investigator will look into the matter, with assistance from the Liebert Cassidy Whitmore law firm.

"The city takes these matters very seriously, and consequently, in conjunction with the City Manager's and City Attorney's office, has already begun the appropriate steps forward to investigate this matter thoroughly and take all necessary actions," La Mesa Mayor Mark Arapostathis said in the statement.

La Mesa City Councilwoman Akilah Weber tweeted about the video Wednesday night.

"I was made aware of an incident involving one of our La Mesa Police Officers and an African American male," she wrote. "I have spoken with Chief (Walt) Vasquez and have requested additional details concerning this incident."

La Mesa City Councilwoman Kristin Alessio posted a statement on Facebook Thursday morning, saying "I have seen a widely circulated video of a La Mesa police officer's interaction with an African American male, as your Councilwoman, you have my word that we will seek the truth and discrimination of any sort to any person in the City of La Mesa will not be tolerated."

A day of protests against a police officer who detained a black man earlier this week turned into rioting Saturday in downtown La Mesa that lasted through the night and into the early Sunday morning.

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