On May 27 of last year, 24-year-old Amaurie Johnson was approached by police in La Mesa, California, for smoking in public, which he denied doing saying he was just waiting on a friend to pick him up. One officer involved in the altercation that followed, Matthew Dages, was fired after video footage showed him violently grabbing and jerking Johnson around, seemingly, because Johnson wouldn’t immediately bend to his every demand and because he acted the way frustrated Black people tend to act when we can’t mind our own business and wait on a ride without police seeing us as a target for their aggression.
Dages was also accused of “falsifying the reason for Johnson’s detention as well as his actions” and charged with falsely reporting that Johnson “balled his fists and took a fighting stance when he stopped him for smoking on a trolley platform” and that “Johnson hit his arm,” the Associated Press reported.
But the bodycam footage showing the incident turns out to be somewhat of a racism Rorschach test as a jury decided Friday that Dages hadn’t lied in his report, which painted Johnson as the aggressor and him as the innocent officer who was just trying to do his job despite the district attorney’s office and many others watching the same video but seeing something different.
But let’s back up a bit before we get into all of that.
According to CBS 8, Johnson was arrested on suspicion of assault on an officer, and resisting, delaying and obstructing an officer. He was cited for smoking in public but all the charges against him were dropped later on. Johnson later filed a federal lawsuit against Dages and the city of La Mesa behind the incident. According to the court filing, Johnson tried to walk away from Dages, but was pushed, then had his arm “violently grabbed,” his body “forcefully jerked” and was “aggressively pushed” into a seated position.
Now, all of that can be clearly seen in the video, which is likely why charges against Johnson were ultimately dropped.
Looking at the bodycam footage, it doesn’t even seem like Johnson was trying to walk away from Dages. It looks more like he’s pacing back and forth (or trying to) because racial profiling and unnecessary police aggression are frustrating. Either way, one would have to be looking really closely and squinting to see whatever the jury saw that made them decide Dages wasn’t lying about anything.
“The progressive DA is choosing criminals over cops,” defense attorney Jeremiah J. Sullivan III told the AP while criticizing San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan for prosecuting the case.
Conservatives always out themselves as racists.
Johnson is a criminal, how? The criminal charges against him were all dropped, and even if he was smoking in public, which he said he wasn’t, that is hardly an infraction that should get anyone dubbed a criminal. It’s also funny how some consider it an ideologically “progressive” act to hold police officers accountable for their actions.
After Dages was acquitted, Stephan released a statement saying she was “proud that my team courageously fought for justice without prejudice against or favor towards anyone.”
“The integrity of our criminal justice system depends on police officers filing truthful police reports, and our thorough review of the facts and evidence led us to bring the charge and present the case to the jury,” she continued.
You can view video footage of Johnson’s arrest below. You be the judge.