By Ken Stone
An independent review of a La Mesa police officer’s arrest of a 23-year-old Black man in late May will be in the police chief’s hands “in the next few days,” he said Wednesday.
Walt Vasquez, La Mesa Police Department chief, recently said the review had a July 1 deadline.
“I’m aware that a draft investigative report has been turned over to legal counsel for review late this afternoon,” he told Times of San Diego via email.
The May 27 incident between Amaurie Johnson and Officer Matt Dages drew widespread attention after video of it was shared. It made La Mesa Ground Zero for a May 30 Black Lives Matter protest at the police station that devolved into acts of arson and looting.
“I can assure the public that once I have had the chance to review the completed investigation, I will expediently take whatever action is appropriate,” Vasquez said via email.
Social-justice groups have called for the firing and prosecution of Dages, a white officer who was put on administrative leave after the incident near Grossmont trolley station.
On June 5, La Mesa police said they wouldn’t seek charges against Johnson.
Chief Vasquez said Johnson was initially contacted for smoking in public, then later arrested on suspicion of assault on an officer, and resisting, delaying and obstructing an officer.
But the footage didn’t show an assault or resisting arrest, although Johnson was talkative. Johnson was released on a misdemeanor citation, Vasquez said.
In both the body camera footage and a video on social media, the officer can be seen pushing Johnson into a seated position, with both men arguing.
Johnson said there was no smoking paraphernalia found on him, despite that being the alleged impetus for his arrest. He said he was only waiting in the area for a friend to come pick him up.
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