LA MESA — La Mesa has agreed to pay $125,000 to settle a lawsuit over the May 2020 videotaped arrest of Amaurie Johnson that prompted a protest that turned гɪᴏтᴏᴜѕ.
Then-La Mesa police Officer Matthew Dages arrested Johnson, who was 23, outside an apartment complex near the Grossmont Transit Center on May 27 that year.
The encounter drew scrutiny after bystander video showed Dages grab and push Johnson.
Johnson sued the city and Dages in San Diego federal court two months later, alleging Dages used ᴇхᴄᴇѕѕɪᴠᴇ fᴏгᴄᴇ and wrongly ɑггᴇѕтᴇԀ him.
According to court records, U.S. District Court Judge Jeffrey Miller dismissed the case July 12, after the parties settled. The case was expected to go to trial in mid-November.
La Mesa City Attorney Glenn Sabine confirmed the settlement on Monday. He said the city is on the hook for $50,000 and that its insurance provider will pay the rest.
All parties agreed to pay their respective attorney fees, although the city will cover Dages’ fees, Sabine said. The total attorney fees the city will cover was not available Monday.
“We’re satisfied with the outcome of the litigation in that the matter has been put to rest,” Sabine said.
The incident began after Dages walked up to Johnson during a trolley fare enforcement operation at the transit center. Dages has said he believed Johnson was ѕᴍᴏᴋɪпɡ in a non-ѕᴍᴏᴋɪпɡ area. Johnson has said he told the officer he was not ѕᴍᴏᴋɪпɡ .
Johnson tried to walk away, but Dages grabbed Johnson’s tank top and then pushed him onto a concrete bench. A bystander’s cellphone and Dages’ body-worn camera recorded the altercation. The bystander footage immediately drew a reaction after it was posted online. Critics decried the encounter as a case of racial profiling and police Ьгᴜтɑʟɪтʏ. Dages is White; Johnson is Black.
Dages claimed Johnson smacked his arm. Johnson said he swiped the officer’s hand. The moment was not clearly captured on video.
Dages ended up arresting Johnson on suspicion of assaulting a police officer and resisting, delaying or obstructing a police officer, although the La Mesa Police Department decided not to pursue charges against Johnson.
An administrative investigation later found Dages detained Johnson without reasonable suspicion of a ᴄгɪᴍᴇ and lied about the encounter in a police report. The officer, according to the investigation, falsely wrote that Johnson was ѕᴍᴏᴋɪпɡ and took a fighting stance.
Dages was fɪгᴇԀ based on the findings of the investigation. He had been on the police force for about two years.
He later was charged in El Cajon Superior Court with a felony count of lying on a police report, but a jury found him not guilty. During the trial, Dages’ lawyers said his account in the report was honest based on his perspective at the time.
Dages took the city to civil court, where he challenged the decision of an appeals board that upheld his firing, but San Diego Superior Court Judge Katherine Bacal ruled that evidence showed that what Dages had written in his report “was false and misleading.”