Officer on leave while La Mesa police review video of black man’s arrest

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LA MESA, Calif. — Investigators are reviewing a confrontation between a police officer and a black man in La Mesa Wednesday, after a video of the arrest circulated online.

The video, posted on Instagram and YouTube Wednesday night, shows an encounter between the officer and a man near the Grossmont Trolley Station.

The nearly six-minute video begins when the man and the officer are already arguing, standing face-to-face. It does not show what led up to the confrontation, including why the officer approached the man in the first place.

Warning: Coarse language throughout

The officer pushes the man down into a sitting position on a concrete bench and holds onto his arm, saying, “Get out of my face.” The man stands up again and the officer holds onto his arm, eventually pushing him back down onto the bench. He twists the man’s arm behind his back and starts to put him in handcuffs as other officers arrive. The man then sits in cuffs talking to officers while his friends continue to record.

At one point in the video, the man says he had been waiting for people when the officer first approached him, and now that they were here, he planned to leave.

At another point, the officer says to the person recording, “Your friend just smacked my arm.” It wasn’t clear if he was referring to something that happened before the recording began.

About four minutes into the video, the man being arrested tells one officer at the scene, “I already know what it is. I’m black as f— out here. That’s what the issue is.”

The man, whose name has not been released, was later told on video that he was being arrested on suspicion of assaulting an officer.

It was not immediately clear how the incident began, and the La Mesa Police Department has not released additional details about the arrest, but the department released a statement Thursday saying it was investigating.

“We immediately began a review of the incident to find out what happened,” the statement said. “The La Mesa Police Department takes all allegations of misconduct very seriously and asks that any member of the public with information or video regarding this incident contact us at 619-667-1400.”

The police officer, whose name has not been released, was put on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation, according to LMPD.

The city of La Mesa also announced Thursday that an outside investigator will look into the matter, with assistance from the Liebert Cassidy Whitmore law firm.

“The city takes these matters very seriously, and consequently, in conjunction with the City Manager’s and City Attorney’s office, has already begun the appropriate steps forward to investigate this matter thoroughly and take all necessary actions,” La Mesa Mayor Mark Arapostathis said in the statement.

La Mesa City Councilwoman Akilah Weber tweeted about the video Wednesday night.

“I was made aware of an incident involving one of our La Mesa Police Officers and an African American male,” she wrote. “I have spoken with Chief (Walt) Vasquez and have requested additional details concerning this incident.”

La Mesa City Councilwoman Kristin Alessio posted a statement on Facebook Thursday morning, saying “I have seen a widely circulated video of a La Mesa police officer’s interaction with an African American male, as your Councilwoman, you have my word that we will seek the truth and discrimination of any sort to any person in the City of La Mesa will not be tolerated.”

The incident comes the same week that the nation watches violent protests in Minneapolis over the death of George Floyd, a black man who was shown on video struggling to breathe as an officer knelt on his neck.

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