La Mesa Police Department

LMPD Police Chief Has Reviewed Details of Investigation Into Amaurie Johnson's Arrest

Johnson said officers found no evidence of drug paraphernalia when they searched him, yet he was still taken into custody and charged

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The La Mesa police chief said he has finished reviewing an investigation into the controversial arrest of a black man near a Grossmont Trolley stop that led to a day of protest and unrest in the city nearly two months ago, though little light was shed on the investigation's findings.

LMPD Walt Vasquez announced Tuesday he had reviewed the findings of an independent investigation into Amaurie Johnson's arrest on May 27, 2020 but did not provide any insight into his conclusions citing due process.

The external investigation into a controversial arrest at a trolley station is complete.

"The remaining due process steps required by California law will be concluded as soon as possible. California law also requires that I refrain from commenting on the details of the report, conclusions of the investigation, or my recommendations at this time," Vasquez said.

Activists and outraged members of the community have been calling for more action from the head of the La Mesa Police Department since video of Johnson's arrest went viral on social media, including for Vasquez to fire the officer seen in the video.

LMPD Officer Matt Dages, a three-year veteran of the force, was placed on administrative leave while the independent review was being conducted. The department has not said if Dages' status has changed.

On June 27, Dages stopped Johnson at the Grossmont Trolley Station, allegedly for smoking in public at the platform area but no evidence of drug paraphernalia was found when officers searched him, according to Johnson.

Tensions rose and several officers responded to the scene. Eventually, Johnson was taken into custody on charges of assault on an officer and resisting/delaying/obstructing an officer. More than a week later, LMPD dropped the charges.

In both the social media video and body camera video released by officers, Dages and Johnson can be seen arguing. Johnson tells the officer he was waiting for someone. The officer pushes Johnson onto a bench. More officers arrive.

In one of the videos released by police, Johnson’s friend approaches officers to explain that Johnson was waiting for him to come back from the grocery store.

"(Johnson) is coming to my house,” he can be heard telling police officers on the bodycam video. “As we pull up, (a police officer) is already questioning him like he is in the wrong like he is not supposed to be here.”

The man at the center of an arrest that went viral, prompting protests in La Mesa, took the podium following a City of La Mesa press conference. Bridget Naso and Melissa Adan break down what happened.

The LMPD videos also show Johnson being detained and being placed in the back of a police car. From within the vehicle, the argument between Johnson and the arresting officer can be heard.

Activists have pointed out that the arrest of Johnson highlights the targeting of black men by law enforcement in America.

“They contacted him because he is a black man standing somewhere they didn’t want him to stand, and you need to understand what it means to be black in this city and in this county,” activist Genevieve Jones-Wright said during a press conference before charges were dropped.

The killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer in the days prior to the controversial arrest also fueled the charge for justice for Johnson, leading to protests in the city of La Mesa in the days that followed.

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