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Former La Mesa officer to appear in court over false report accusations

matthew dages-amaurie johnson-la mesa.jpeg
Posted at 12:44 PM, Aug 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-10 21:53:37-04

LA MESA, Calif. (KGTV) — The officer accused of falsifying a police report related to the controversial arrest of a Black man near the Grossmont trolley station is scheduled for a preliminary hearing on Tuesday.

Former La Mesa Police officer Matthew Dages pleaded not guilty last March to a felony charge of filing a false report in connection with the May 27, 2020, arrest of 23-year-old Amaurie Johnson. The arrest was captured on video and posted to social media, sparking protests in the wake of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

According to the San Diego County District Attorney's Officer, Dages is accused of "falsifying the reason for Johnson's detention as well as his actions." He faces up to three years in state prison if convicted.


In a termination letter by then-LMPD Chief Walt Vasquez, who is now retired, the chief listed "false and misleading statements" in Dages' report as part of the reason he was fired. Those allegedly false statements included that Johnson was smoking and committed fare evasion at the trolley stop, and statements that Johnson took a "bladed stance" with his fists balled during the arrest.

Dages had been with the La Mesa Police Department since 2018 before he was fired in August following the arrest. The firing was later upheld by La Mesa's Personnel Appeals Board.

In June 2020, video surfaced of the arrest a month prior, showing a tense interaction between Dages and Johnson. Dages is seen in the video shoving Johnson down into a seated position on a bench and handcuffing him and arresting him.

Johnson was initially contacted for smoking in public and then told he was arrested for assaulting an officer, and resisting, delaying and obstructing an officer. He was released on a misdemeanor citation. After body camera video of the arrest was released, the department dropped all charges against Johnson and placed Dages on administrative leave.

Johnson has filed a federal lawsuit against Dages and the City of La Mesa.