Officer in controversial La Mesa arrest no longer employed by city

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LA MESA, Calif. — A La Mesa police officer who was involved in a controversial arrest in May is no longer employed by the city, it was announced Friday.

“Matt Dages in not employed by the City of La Mesa in any capacity,” the City of La Mesa said in a news release.

Amaurie Johnson, the 23-year-old La Mesa man who was the subject of the May 27 arrest as he stood waiting for friends near the Grossmont Trolley Station, filed suit last month against the city and several members of the police department, his attorney said.

In the filing, lawyers argued Johnson was arrested without probable cause and charges the city, 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.

FOX 5 tried reaching out to Johnson’s lawyer for comment Friday evening but has not heard back.

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