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Fired La Mesa Police Officer Seeking To Regain Job

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.

A former La Mesa police officer who was fired and criminally charged in connection with a controversial arrest near the Grossmont trolley station is seeking to regain his job, court filings show.

Matthew Dages was fired last summer in connection with the May 27 arrest of 23-year-old Amaurie Johnson, which was captured on video and circulated over social media.

Dages was fired based on allegations that he violated several police department rules and regulations, including falsification of records, according to a termination letter issued last summer by then-police chief Walt Vasquez.

The now-retired chief wrote that Dages made false and misleading statements in his police report regarding alleged smoking and fare evasion violations he said Johnson committed. The letter states that Dages also failed to activate his body-worn camera in a timely fashion during the arrest and "directed profane, insolent language and made discourteous comments" to Johnson.

Dages' firing was upheld in December by the city of La Mesa's personnel appeals board.

In a writ of administrative mandate filed in San Diego Superior Court on Thursday, Dages seeks to have the city and the appeals board "set aside their decision and the discipline, and reinstate and restore Petitioner to his position, as well as restore all back pay and benefits lost, with interest."

Additionally, the filing states that Dages seeks "to remove from Petitioner's personnel file or any other file used for personnel purposes, documentation relating to the discipline."

Dages' filing alleges the appeals board's decision to deny his appeal is invalid because the board "failed to proceed in the manner required by law; the decision is not supported by the findings; and the findings are not supported by the weight of the evidence."

Following his arrest, Johnson was released on a misdemeanor citation and the police department later announced it would not be seeking charges against him. Johnson later filed a federal lawsuit against Dages and the city of La Mesa.

Dages was charged earlier this year by the San Diego County District Attorney's Office with a felony count of filing a false report for allegedly "falsifying the reason for Johnson's detention as well as his actions," according to a District Attorney's Office statement.

He faces up to three years in state prison if convicted and is slated to be arraigned next week.

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