The wife of a former La Mesa, California police officer told The Star News Network that since a jury December 10 acquitted her husband Matthew Dages, the couple fights now to regain his spot on the force so that he can return to his law enforcement vocation.
“The foreman handed it to the court clerk, and she read the verdict, and I think all of us were just waiting for the end pronunciation of the ‘not guilty’ words – and as soon as we heard that, everyone kind of erupted in a huge sigh of relief and just tears,” said Christina Dages, whose husband was charged with the felony filing a false police report regarding his May 27, 2020, interactions and arrest of Amaurie Johnson, at La Mesa’s Grossmont Transit Center.
Dages said when the couple celebrated their second wedding anniversary on December 28, it was poignant because, for 19 months of their marriage, they have been dealing with the severe possibility of her husband going to prison.
“It’s been a heck of a newlywed phase, but we’re stronger than we’ve ever been, so it’s all good,” she said.
Dages said she met her San Diego-born-and-raised husband when she was working out.
“We went to the same gym, and I was just very drawn to him from afar, and I eventually made the decision to go introduce myself to him, and the rest is history,” she said. “I approached him and very quickly into dating we both knew that we aligned, we’re both committed to fitness and faith and family, our families are both here in San Diego, so we both were in all the way from the very beginning.”
Amaurie Johnson’s Arrest
Dages said her husband loved being a police officer, and shortly before the day his world turned upside down, his department accepted him into the SWAT program. “He had tried out for the SWAT team and had just been selected for the SWAT team, and started the SWAT training when this incident happened, so obviously that all got put on hold last year.”
The day of the incident, Dages and other officers were at the Grossman Transit Center, which the department designated as a high-crime area, she said.
“Matthew was working a detail with other police officers from his department,” she said. “There’s a trolley, there’s bus stations, there’s bikes, and so the officers were assigned to be there and contact every one and check for their fares.”
Amaurie Johnson drew her husband’s attention, so he went over to verify that he had his Metropolitan Transit System fare card, she said.
When Johnson, who is black, did not produce his fare card, her husband, who is white, continued to question him, and then he tried to walk away from the officer, she said.
“That person was very combative,” she said. “They were not complying with Matthew’s commands, and then they struck Matthew, so that led to Matthew using a very low-level use force to keep the person seated until other officers arrived.”
What started as a possible fare-jumper charge escalated, she said.
“At that point, if you strike a police officer, you’re going to be under arrest,” Dages said.
“Matthew uses very low-level use of force to get the person to sit down until other officers arrive to put this person in handcuffs,” she said.
The subsequent escalation came when some recorded a video of the incident and posted it – two days after George Floyd died while resisting arrest in Minneapolis.
“A bystander video of that use of force was posted online with the hashtag George Floyd, and the video went viral,” she said.
The video clearly shows Johnson as uncooperative and repeatedly attempting to break off the officer’s grasp. Finally, when the officer sits Johnson down before him, Johnson tries to get up and walk away.
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As the officer calls in the incident, Johnson shouts interruptions at him and, using a racial epithet, invites the officer to perform a sex act upon him.
Dages said that in the atmosphere created by the reaction to Floyd’s death, local political operatives exploited the incident at the transit center and pushed the video across social media.
“That led to protest and riots in the city where Matthew worked. There were buildings burned down, businesses were looted,” she said.
The ensuing protest was one for the books: Demonstrators shut down I-8, rioters burned two banks to the ground, looters struck a local grocery store, and police officers deployed tear gas and fired bean bag rounds that left some protestors in critical condition. When things turned violent, the City Council held a late-night meeting to announce a citywide curfew.
“In La Mesa, that city mayor and the city manager and the city council all kind of control the police chief, so when their city burned down, and they were afraid that it was going to continue to burn down, they basically control the puppet strings, and they can tell the chief to do whatever they want in terms of disciplining this officer,” she said.
“When this goes before a judge in the court of law, I think it’s a completely different arena,” she said.
“There’s an actual burden of proof where the city was going to have to like try and back up their decision to fire this officer,” Dages said.
Among the city leaders who targeted her husband was City Councilor Aklah Weber, a local obstetrician, and gynecologist, who won the April special election to succeed her mother, California Secretary of State Shirley Weber, in the state legislature.
“Weber is a very active self-proclaimed social justice warrior,” Dages said. “She’s very anti-police. She passed a lot of legislation in our state that’s against cops, so her daughter Akilah Weber was on the La Mesa City Council when this all happened.”
San Diego County DA announced that charges are being filed against former La Mesa Police Officer Matthew Dages for filing a false police report. #Accountability #transparency #lamesa pic.twitter.com/T5yLZpcPZA
— Akilah Weber, MD (@drakilahweber) January 4, 2021
“Ultimately, Matthew’s use of force was justified by his department, but the city council was not happy that their city burned down,” she said.
“There were plans for a second round of protests and riots in the city, and so the city made a decision to kind of try and find a way to railroad Matthew, to force him out in an effort to kind of quiet the mob and prevent future destruction to their city,” she said. “You can see how the city works backwards.”
Officer Dages Charged with Filing a False Police Report
Dages said her husband followed his department’s use of force policy, so when the city’s leadership decided to make her husband their sacrificial lamb, they had to pick apart his report.
However, the report city officials accused her husband of falsifying was reviewed by senior officers in the patrolman’s chain of command before he submitted it, she said.
“The police report is cleared, and then they started to just grasp at straws and say that things that he said he observed never happened, even though other officers confirm that these things happened, even though other witnesses confirmed that they happened,” she said.
“They’re saying that he falsified things in a police report, and he wrote his police report on a Thursday, and it got bounced back to him, five times by his sergeant and his captain with multiple revisions,” Dages said.
“Then, they all approved the report on Friday – the city burns down Saturday,” she said.
“There were more plans for more riots the following weekend, so it’s interesting that first thing, Monday morning after the riots, all of a sudden the city and the police department say: ‘There’s a problem with Matthew’s police report,’ when on Friday it was approved by multiple levels of leadership, and it was fine.”
She said that no one in the chain of command who revised and approved the police report was charged with falsifying the report or otherwise sanctioned. “It was obviously – no one was disagreeing with Matthew’s observations – it was the city’s Hail Mary move to get rid of Matthew, so they could quiet the mob and protect their city.”
The Jurors Shared Their Deliberations with Dages, Her Husband
Dages said she attended every day of the trial, not knowing what would happen until the verdict was read.
“I mean, it is a most agonizing moment,” she said.
“I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. I think so much hangs in the balance, right? It’s like, if we’re acquitted, then we get our lives back. If we’re not, I mean, they were proposing prison time for Matthew, which means he would’ve been a convicted felon. He can’t own a firearm. He can’t vote,” she said.
“We very much want to start a family soon, that would be put on hold if he was put in prison, so for all of that to be up in the air and not know which way it would go was absolute agony and that almost is an understatement,” she said.
Afterward, the verdict was read, and the judge gaveled the trial over the couple spoke with the jurors about the trial and how they reached their verdict, said the Illinois native, who also grew up in lived in Hawaii and Florida during her parents’ naval careers before they settled in San Diego.
“We had a really interesting opportunity after the verdict was read, and after court cleared out, to speak with some of the jurors, and they all unanimously agreed that the moment they walk into the deliberation room,” she said.
“They all agreed that this case had nothing to do with race,” she said. “They all agreed that Matthew had been railroaded by the city for political reasons.”
The daughter of two Navy officers said there was one holdout who insisted on being thorough.
“Eleven of the 12 of them immediately were ready to turn over a not guilty verdict, and there was just one person who wanted to go through the two weeks’ worth of testimony, exhibits and evidence, which is why they deliberate this for about a full day,” she said.
“I think that that’s further proof; this case should have never gone to trial,” she said. “It’s just been a politically motivated witch hunt that really culminated in a very intense verdict moment that rightfully went our way.”
Dages: The Next Phase is Getting My Husband’s Career Back
“The criminal case is over. We were victorious in that, and now the next phase of this fight is getting him reinstated as a police officer,” Dages said.
“I think there’s a spring court date for that hearing, and then that’ll determine if he’s back reinstated as a police officer,” she said.
Through it all, Dages said the couple was grateful for the support of their faith, friends, family, and the La Mesa Patrolmen’s Union. She said the couple also relied on the Pipe Hitter Foundation, which stepped up to raise money to help them. The foundation continues to be financially supportive by activating their supporters to get funds and information out about this case.
“The police union pays for part of your legal fees, but not all of your legal fees, something that we weren’t expecting and had to learn the hard way,” she said. “They’ve been as supportive as they can be, but there’s still out-of-pocket legal costs that we weren’t anticipating.”
Dages said the loss of income and the cost of a defense were a double-whammy.
“For the most part, the union and his colleagues and patrol at his department have been incredibly supportive,” she said.
“We have a social media presence online, so we really have supporters not just here in San Diego but across the country that are rallying and supporting us, which has been amazing,” she said.
“His use of force is justified by his department, but our lives have been upended because the Woke crowd didn’t like the way a white police officer’s justified use of force looks, so we’re staying in the fight,” she said.
“We’re people of faith, which has been the one thing keeping our heads above water during this agonizing chapter,” she said.
“We’ve made it out the other side stronger than ever – obviously this acquittal this month in the criminal case, but our fights not over,” Dages said.
“He still is without a job, and now our focus is, like I said, getting him reinstated as a police officer because his job was wrongfully stripped away from him.”
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