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Ex-La Mesa police officer accused of falsifying report to stand trial

Posted at 2:01 PM, Aug 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-11 20:23:38-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) -- Former La Mesa police officer Matthew Dages, who is accused of falsifying a police report in the 2020 arrest of Amaurie Johnson at an East County trolley station, will stand trial, according to the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office.

In a statement, County DA Summer Stephan said, “Over the past two days during a preliminary hearing in open court, a Superior Court Judge heard evidence on the criminal charge of making a false police report and the Court held the evidence was sufficient, allowing the case to move forward to a jury trial. As prosecutors we follow the evidence and the law when making charging decisions. When crimes are committed by police officers in a position of public trust, we have a duty to hold those individuals accountable when we are able to prove criminal charges beyond a reasonable doubt.”

An arraignment was set for Aug. 24; Dages faces up to three years in prison if convicted.

In March, Dages pleaded not guilty to a felony charge of filing a false report in connection with the May 27, 2020, arrest of the 23-year-old 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.

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.

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