Former La Mesa Police Department officer Matthew Dages continued his testimony on the witness stand Wednesday. Dages is accused of falsifying a police report following the May 27, 2020, arrest of an unarmed Black man at a trolley stop.
Closing arguments wrapped up Wednesday and the trial is now in the hands of a jury.
Dages faced lengthy cross-examination by the prosecution. He was repeatedly asked about what he observed and how he filled out his police report back in May 2020.
Prosecutors said Dages lied about the controversial arrest of Amaurie Johnson, who told Dages he was waiting for his friends to pick him up near the Grossmont Trolley Station on the day of his arrest.
The arrest was captured on video and showed Dages approaching Johnson. During a preliminary hearing in August, Johnson testified that Dages asked why he was there then later accused him of smoking.
Johnson was initially arrested that day for “resisting and assaulting an officer” a week later his charges were dropped.
Dages was later terminated from LMPD and in January was charged with falsifying a police report.
During the cross-examination by the prosecution, the Deputy District Attorney questioned why Dages didn’t include in his police report that Johnson had called his friends to confirm he was at the trolley stop waiting for them.
On the stand, Dages testified he did not feel that Johnson calling his friends needed to be in the report
The prosecution also asked why Dages did not turn on his body-worn camera until later. Dages responded that it was a mistake. He also testified that he believed Johnson was smoking.
“The area which he was standing was odd. I don’t see many stand there at the garage entrance, and the observation I made was I believed he was smoking,” Dages testified. “Then, Mr. Johnson’s demeanor and lying to me off the bat was pretty big red flags.”
During closing arguments, the prosecution said the way Dages wrote the report shows there were falsehoods.
The prosecution said the first thing read on the police report is that Johnson is smoking, and said that is a lie which leads the reader of the police report to believe Johnson was smoking.
During the defense’s closing arguments, Dages’ attorney said they do not see a dispute in the police report filed by the former police officer. Adding that the point is not that Johnson was smoking, but that’s what Dages observed and is why he approached Johnson.
Additionally, the defense cited how the police report was approved by the police chief and other higher levels of LMPD management. But, following the weekend protests which led to riots and building burning in La Mesa, the defense said “it's garbage” that then the police report is considered not OK.
The jury will begin deliberating on Thursday. If Dages is convicted he could face three years in prison.