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Former California Officer Who Falsely Accused Black Man of Smoking In Public, Mischaracterizing His Actions, Now Faces Falsifying Police Report Charge and Up to 3 Years In Prison

A former La Mesa officer has been charged with one count of falsifying a police report in connection with the 2019 arrest of a Black man.

The San Diego County District Attorney’s Office filed the criminal charge against former LMPD Officer Matt Dages, 30, who arrested 23-year-old Amaurie Johnson near Grossmont Trolley Station, as he waited outside for a friend to return to pick him up at an apartment complex. Footage of the arrest was widely shared on social media last year.

“Everyone is accountable under the law and as we’ve done previously, we will file criminal charges when they are supported by facts and evidence,” District Attorney Summer Stephan said in a statement. “My office’s Special Operations division of specialized prosecutors and investigators is dedicated to the principles of conducting fair, thorough and independent reviews of public corruption and police misconduct cases with the goal of enhancing public trust and pursuing justice.”

If convicted, Dages faces up to three years in prison. He is accused of falsifying the reason Johnson was taken into custody and mischaracterizing his actions.

Amaurie Johnson (right) was arrested by former La Mesa officer Matt Dages outside of an apartment complex in May 2019 while he waited for a friend. Photo: CBS 8 San Diego, YouTube Screenshot

In body camera footage of the May 27 arrest released by the La Mesa Police Department, Dages attempts to detain Johnson, who is trying to walk away from the officer, saying he was waiting for someone else who has now arrived.

“Mr. Dages, you’re making a big a-s deal out of nothing, bro,” Johnson told the officer.

“Sit down!” Dages replied, pushing Johnson to a seated position. In the video, Johnson’s friend explained to an officer that he was standing outside of the apartment complex waiting for him to return 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’s not supposed to be here.”

Johnson was arrested for what Dages described as smoking in public, resisting arrest and assaulting a police officer. However, all charges against him were dropped after a review of body camera footage, and when it was discovered that Johnson had no smoking materials on him.

Dages, who had been with the department since 2019, was fired in August.

In a federal suit filed by Johnson against Dages and the city over the summer, he claims he was waiting for his friends to pick him up when he was “violently grabbed,” his body “forcefully jerked” and “aggressively pushed” into a seated position before being placed in an arm-bar.

“I’m thankful for the DA’s decision to pursue charges against former officer Dages. Now it’s time for this drawn out legal process. I’ll do my part to make sure there is justice. Tough times don’t last but tough people do,” Johnson said in a recent social media post after Dages was charged.

He is expected to appear in court remotely on March 9. 

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