Amaurie Johnson was arrested May 27 while waiting to be picked up by friends in front of a La Mesa apartment complex, according to the lawsuit filed Wednesday in San Diego federal court.
La Mesa police stated Johnson was initially contacted for smoking in public, then arrested for alleged assault on a peace officer and resisting arrest.
Officials with the city of La Mesa could not immediately be reached for comment on the lawsuit.
According to his court papers, Johnson tried to walk away from the officer when his friends arrived, but was pushed, then had his arm “violently grabbed,” his body “forcefully jerked,” was “aggressively pushed” into a seated position, and then was placed in an arm-bar.
The lawsuit alleges excessive force, arrest without probable cause and violence because of race on the part of Officer Matt Dages, who is white. It also alleges the city of La Mesa is negligent and created an “atmosphere of lawlessness and discrimination, encouraging excessive force by its officers” due to alleged failure to discipline officers or investigate citizen complaints of excessive force.
Johnson was ultimately released on a misdemeanor citation and the La Mesa Police Department announced just over a week later that it would not be pursuing prosecution against him.
While at the time of Johnson’s arrest, police protests had already gotten underway across the nation due to the Memorial Day in-custody death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Johnson’s arrest may have been the catalyst for a May 30 anti-police brutality demonstration outside La Mesa City Hall.
During the protest, 59-year-old Leslie Furcron suffered severe injuries when she was struck in the forehead with a beanbag round fired by La Mesa Detective Eric Knudson, intensifying public condemnation of the city and its police department.
According to La Mesa police, officer-worn camera footage captured images of Furcron hurling something across the parking lot at sheriff’s deputies just before Knudson discharged the beanbag round.
Furcron and her family also filed a claim against the city of La Mesa, as did other protesters who allege they were injured by police that day.
–City News Service
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