SAN DIEGO – A La Mesa man, who was the subject of a controversial arrest in May by La Mesa police officers as he stood waiting for friends near a local trolley station, has filed suit against the city and several members of the police department, his attorney said this week.
The suit, which was filed Wednesday, claims damages stemming from the May 27 arrest of 23-year-old Amaurie Johnson. In the filing, lawyers argue Johnson was arrested without probable cause and charges the city, La Mesa Police Dept. Officer Matt Dages and officers whose names are unknown to Johnson with negligence, using excessive force and violence against him because of his race.
Body camera footage of the incident shows an officer now identified as Dages push Johnson, who is Black, into a seated position, with both men arguing through the interaction.
Many local voices including several prominent activists have called the incident an example of racial profiling. Officers approached Johnson as he was standing in front of an apartment complex, initially accusing him of “smoking weed,” which he denied, according to the lawsuit.
“The violence, or intimidation by threats of violence, was committed against Mr. Johnson because of race,” the lawsuit reads. “This is demonstrated by the way Officer Dages treated other white citizens present differently. Officer Dages did not approach any of the white citizens and demand that they justify their presence.”
The suit further alleges the city is “vicariously liable” for damages as the officers involved were acting within the scope of their employment with the city.
Johnson was arrested on suspicion of assault on an officer, and resisting, delaying and obstructing an officer. In early June, the department said it would not seek prosecution of Johnson — in addition to announcing a ban on the use of the carotid restraint.
But the announcement was not well received by Johnson or the family of Leslie Furcron, a 59-year-old woman shot with a projectile by an officer May 30 in La Mesa
“There was no accountability taken today amongst the police officers that were here, the police chief,” Johnson said on June 5.