La Mesa officials release videos of racially charged arrest at trolley station

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LA MESA, Calif. (CNS) — La Mesa police Wednesday released body camera footage of the arrest of a young black man last week near the Grossmont Trolley Center, though local activists said the city’s response has been lacking and demanded the involved officer’s firing.

The body camera footage — which totals just over 10 minutes — pertains to the May 27 arrest of 23-year-old Amaurie Johnson, who La Mesa Police Department Chief Walt Vasquez said was initially contacted for smoking in public, then later arrested on suspicion of assault on an officer, and resisting, delaying and obstructing an officer. He was released on a misdemeanor citation, Vasquez said.

In both the body camera footage and a video on social media, the officer can be seen pushing Johnson into a seated position, with both men arguing.

Many have called the incident an example of racial profiling, which led police protests already planned following George Floyd’s in-custody Memorial Day death in Minneapolis to take place in the East County city last weekend.

The circumstances surrounding Johnson’s arrest remain under review, as well as the Saturday shooting of 59-year-old Leslie Furcron, who was struck in the forehead with a beanbag projectile during the weekend protest outside La Mesa City Hall.

Furcron remains hospitalized with severe injuries, including the potential loss of one of her eyes, according to her family and their attorney.

La Mesa city and police officials said Wednesday that investigations remain ongoing into both incidents by “an independent reviewer.” The officer involved in Johnson’s arrest has been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation, while Vasquez said the officer involved in Furcron’s case has been identified, but the department has not released his or her name.

City officials called an afternoon news conference to announce several items, including the release of the body camera footage and a ban on the carotid restraint technique, following similar, previous declarations by the San Diego Police Department and the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department.

Those announcements did little to placate many in attendance, including Johnson and two of Furcron’s sons, who have called for both officers’ firings and criminal charges.

After city officials left the podium, Johnson and others held their own impromptu news conference, in which they challenged what they called a “sham press conference” organized by city officials.

“There was no accountability taken today amongst the police officers that were here, the police chief,” Johnson said.

“I also didn’t hear any apologies in regards to what happened to Leslie Furcron, no apologies in regards to what might have happened to anyone else that was hurt or harmed during this time.”

Johnson said there was no smoking paraphernalia found on him, despite that being the alleged impetus for his arrest. He said he was only waiting in the area for a friend to come pick him up.

Furcron’s sons, Ahmad Furcron and Azim Sanders, questioned why the officer who shot their mother has not been identified.

“Justice needs to be served. That officer’s name needs to be released,” Sanders said. “The camera footage needs to be released. That all needs to come to light and things need to change immediately.”

There was no immediate response to an email sent to Vasquez Wednesday night asking why the officer has not been identified.

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