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Fired Southern California White Cop Ordered To Stand Trial for Filing False Report About Brutal Arrest of Black Man for Smoking At Trolley Station

A fired White cop caught on camera brutalizing a Black man for allegedly smoking a cigarette at a Southern California trolley stop was ordered to stand trial at a hearing on August 11, 2021, for filing a false report about the incident.

El Cajon Superior Court Judge Patricia Cookson also declined to reduce the charge from a felony to a misdemeanor, so the former officer, 30-year-old Matthew Dages, will face up to three years in prison if convicted.

Dages was one of several officers with the La Mesa Police Department (LMPD) on a fare-enforcement detail at the Grossmont transit station on May 27, 2020, when he approached 23-year-old Amaurie Johnson and accused him of violating a ban on smoking at the facility.

Cellphone video shot by one one of Johnson’s friends, as well as police body-cam footage, do not show Johnson smoking. But they do show what happened next: Dages repeatedly shoved the young Black man down onto a bench each time he attempted to stand and walk away.

Dages’ report on the incident indicates not only that Johnson was smoking but also that he hadn’t paid his trolley fare and that he balled his fists at the officer. None of that is supported by evidence, argued Deputy District Attorney Judy Taschner, who said instead that Dages wrote the false report in an attempt to blunt the impact of the cellphone video as it went viral online.

The arrest occurred just two days after a White police officer in Minneapolis named Derek Chauvin killed a Black man in custody named George Floyd, setting off a wave of racial justice protests demanding police reform in cities across the country.

On June 5, 2020, LMPD declined to charge Johnson. It fired Dages less than two months later, after an outside investigation.

“Officer Dages knew that this case was under scrutiny, that this incident was under scrutiny,” Taschner said. “That video went viral almost immediately and he knew he had to give a reason to justify and to come up with something for why he went after this young man who was standing there, doing nothing.”


Sources: San Diego Tribune, KNSD-TV

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