La Mesa Police Department

Trial Underway for Ex-La Mesa Cop Accused of Falsifying Police Report in Controversial Arrest

The May 27, 2020 arrest fueled protests that same weekend that ended in a riot as looters took advantage of the tension

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A trial is underway for the La Mesa police officer who faces a charge of falsifying a police report following the detainment of an unarmed Black man at a trolley stop.

Former La Mesa Police Department Officer Matt Dages returned to court on Wednesday for the accusation. Prosecutors said the ex-cop lied about the controversial arrest of Amaurie Johnson, who was near the Grossmont Trolley Station waiting for his friends to pick him up.

The May 27, 2020, 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 on the trolley platform.

On Wednesday, opening statements were heard and then Amaurie Johnson took to the witness stand, he said officer Dages first accused him of smoking on the trolley platform and questioned why he was waiting at the trolley station.

"I tried to deescalate the situation, he was asking where my friends were and I started asking him if it was an issue of me to be standing there or if I should move if this was indeed a fare zone," said Johnson during Wednesday's testimony. "I made it known I wasn’t taking the trolley and I was just waiting for my friends to arrive."

In bystander video and body-worn camera footage, the former officer could be seen pushing Johnson down before arresting him for “resisting and assaulting an officer.” That video was widely circulated online and fueled protests in La Mesa that same weekend.

Charges for Johnson were eventually dropped and Dages was charged for lying on a police report. He pleaded not guilty in March. Dages defense team says his client did not lie on the police report.

The ex-police officer was fired from the department following the allegations, to which Dages responded by filing an appeal request to get his job back. Johnson filed a federal lawsuit against the City of La Mesa and Dages, alleging negligence, excessive force and violence due to his race.

During court on Thursday, the defense cross-examined Johnson questioning him over a verbal threat he made to the officer.

"If he didn’t have a badge on and a gun that’s how I felt, that’s what would’ve happened, but I was very frustrated and confused at the situation and I don’t regret saying that," said Johnson during Thursday's testimony. "I know I shouldn't have said that."

Former La Mesa Police Department Officer Matt Dages faces a charge of falsifying a police report in the arrest of Amaurie Johnson, reports NBC 7's Rory Devine.

Another witness, Thomas Wesch, who testified on Wednesday had recorded a cell phone video of the incident and shared what he was thinking at that moment.

"I watched it and noticed things getting heated, so I took out my cell phone and started recording," said Wesch during Wednesday's testimony. "George Floyd's murder had happened a day or two prior and I was concerned."

If convicted Dages could face up to three years in prison. He remains out of custody.

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