Former La Mesa Police Officer Charged With Filing False Police Report
Speaker 1: 00:00 He's been fired. His employment appeal has been denied. And now former Lamesa police officer Matthew Dodges is facing a felony charge dashes as accused of falsifying a police report after his arrest of 23 year old Omari Johnson. Last may a video of the arrest with a white officer repeatedly pushing down the black man at a trolley stop, set off protests in Lamesa and across the County charges against Johnson were subsequently dropped me is KPBS reporter Joe Hong. Welcome Jack. Speaker 2: 00:33 Thanks for having me, Speaker 1: 00:35 If you would, about the video of this arrest, what is Speaker 2: 00:39 Yeah. Um, so in Dodges, his body cam footage, you see him sort of approach AAMRI Johnson and you see Dodges sort of places hand on, uh AAMRI and Henri Johns is sort of, uh, swats away his hand. And that is what Dodgers, uh, interpreted as assault on a peace officer. And from there, uh, things sort of escalate. You see Dodgers grab the front of Henri Johnson's shirt, you see him, uh, pulling Johnson's arm around his back and handcuffing him. And he's eventually joined by a couple other officers, um, who help handcuff Johnson as well. Speaker 1: 01:20 Yeah. Da, summer Stephens has charged dashes with lying on his report about the incident. Did the da say why the felony charges were filed? Speaker 2: 01:30 Yeah, so all only really got from the DA's office is a statement saying that the address is charged with one felony count of filing false report. So we can really assume that that means that the reason for the arrest, which was assaulting a peace officer was, was not true or that's sort of the allegation. And, um, in her statement, some Stephan says I'm reading from the statement, uh, 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. Speaker 1: 02:08 Okay, then, so this arrest, which involved the man handling of a black man in the Mesa happened right at the time the country was reeling from the death of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minneapolis. Tell us about the protests here in San Diego. Speaker 2: 02:23 Did this incident with, uh, Albert Johnson and Matthew Dodgers happened on May 27th. And I believe the day after there was a small protest in front of the Mesa police department's office, but just a couple of days later, the video of George Floyd's killing at the hands of Minneapolis, please, uh, surface. So Lamesa then became one of the epicenters, I guess, in, uh, the San Diego region for the nationwide protests. What we really saw was, uh, just really unprecedented demonstrations in Lamesa thousands of people gathering on Memorial day weekend. And of course later in the evening, uh, some of the, some of the individuals participating in largely peaceful protests later in the evening, um, got a little violent. Uh, there was looting, there was destruction of, of buildings and local businesses and things like that. Speaker 1: 03:17 And in fact, the da charged two men back in November with the burning of a bank in Lamesa during those protests. One has the Lamesa police department said about the charges filed against Matthew Dodges. Speaker 2: 03:30 So the Mesa police department, I got a statement from, uh, the current acting chief of police race Sweeney. Um, I'm gonna read from his statement. Uh, the Mesa police department is aware of the announcement made by the district attorney's office this morning regarding the issuing of charges against former Lamesa police officer Matthew Dodges. We have worked closely with the San Diego district attorney's office over the past several months on this matter, bill Mesa police department holds each and every member of the department to the highest standards of integrity in order to protect and serve our community and keep it's trust. So the police chief here is sort of echoing what, um, the DA's office side they're cooperating with the investigation, and they're, they're really working to rebuild trust with the community. Speaker 1: 04:14 Has there been any response from Matthew dashes himself? Speaker 2: 04:19 Uh, no. I, I haven't been able to reach him. I haven't seen anything where he's coming out and, and reacting to the charge. Speaker 1: 04:26 Have we heard from Omari Johnson about this? I think he has always said that he wanted charges filed against this office. Speaker 2: 04:34 Yeah, so he, uh, Johnson posted a brief statement on, on social media, just sort of thanking everyone for their support. And I'm just going to read from a part of his statement. He says, I'm thankful for the DA's decision to pursue charges against former officer Dodges. Uh, now it's time for this drawn out legal process. I'll do my parts, make sure there's justice tough times don't last but tough people do. So it looks like in the end, uh, Johnson sees this as, as in sort of getting justice for what he went through. Speaker 1: 05:06 Is it rare for the DA's office to charge an officer or former officer with filing a false report? Speaker 2: 05:13 Yeah. So this is definitely something that doesn't happen every day, but, uh, uh, spokesman with the DA's office did tell me that, uh, since 2009, this is the fifth time that, uh, a police officer has been charged with falsifying a report. Speaker 1: 05:29 And if he's convicted, his dad is facing jail time. Speaker 2: 05:32 Yes. So if he is convicted, Dodges faces up to three years in prison, according to the DA's office. Speaker 1: 05:40 And I've been speaking with KPBS reporter, Joe Hong and Joe. Thank you. Thanks for having me.