LA MESA, Calif. — The courtroom went dark Friday in the trial of a former La Mesa police officer who’s accused of falsifying a police report after the controversial arrest of a young Black man at a trolley station last year in May.
Instead of hearing more testimony, the jury was taken to the Grossmont Trolley Station to get a closer look at the area where the incident played out. The media were instructed to not show any part of the jurors walk-through.
Cell phone video captured the encounter between Officer Matthew Dages and Amaurie Johnson on a day police were conducting a “fare compliance operation.” Johnson was near the station outside an apartment complex.
In the police report, Dages says he made contact with Johnson for smoking in public and for failing to have trolley fare in a fare zone.
Kim Herrera watched as jurors passed through the trolley station and says there’s plenty of confusion about the fare zone rules.
“It’s inconsistent, depending on the police officer,” she said.
On Thursday, Johnson testified he had no idea why the officer approached him because he didn’t have any cigarettes, just a cell phone. Johnson said he told Dages he was waiting for friends.
“He told me I was not free to leave when I asked him if I could walk down the street,” Johnson said. “He was asking me about the fare zone, so I was saying if this is a fare zone, am I allowed to go down the street? That’s when he told me ‘No, you can’t’ and sat me down.”
Video showed Dages pushing Johnson down, with the officer’s actions sparking outrage and protests.
Johnson was arrested for assaulting a police officer, but not charged. Dages was later fired from the police department.
The defense argues Johnson was combative towards officers and the police report was accurate.
It’s unknown what was discussed at the trolley station Friday. After about a half hour, jurors hopped on a bus and left the station.