SAN ANTONIO — San Antonio Police Chief William McManus on Friday said he stands behind the officers who detained a jogger who matched the physical description of a man wanted for choking a woman to the point of unconsciousness Tuesday.
“This was grossly misrepresented as (racially-motivated),” McManus said. “I've watched the video multiple times – as well as the rest of my staff, the city attorney, the deputy city manager – and there was absolutely nothing that was done wrong in this stop except that the individual failed to identify himself, refused to identify himself, was antagonistic during the whole thing. And I support the officers in the stop. They did absolutely what they should have done.”
The department said the woman who was assaulted described her attacker, her ex-husband, as a Black man wearing white shorts, a green shirt and having a scruffy beard. It was later determined that the jogger matching the woman’s description whom police detained, identified as Mathias Chuks Ometu, was not the domestic violence suspect police sought.
Still, Ometu was taken to jail on two felony charges of assaulting a peace officer after police allege he kicked officers as they tried to place him in a patrol vehicle.
San Antonio attorney Victor Maas and his girlfriend, Jennifer Rodriguez, recorded approximately 20 minutes of the encounter police said lasted nearly an hour.
“That man in the green was jogging, the cops pulled him over and because he wouldn’t give him his name, he got handcuffed,” Maas said while narrating a Facebook Live video of Ometu’s arrest.
Former Bexar County District Attorney Nico LaHood elaborated that while Ometu did not have to give his name, officers had an obligation to investigate the crime.
“If anybody fits a description as a suspect, well then obviously an officer has a right to go up to them and to reasonably detain them,” LaHood explained. “They have reasonable suspicion to look into the facts of the incident, to see if he matches or she matches. The individual has a right not to say anything. They're not under arrest. It’s not giving false information, it’s not failure to I.D. You don't have to say anything, but you do have to remain in detention.
“And the way it typically happens is that the person that is the complainant, or the alleged victim, will come out and identify that person or not. It'll take some time. It might be a pain in the butt, but then once they identify that's not the person, then they're released.”
McManus said officers were attempting to do just that—take the alleged victim to determine whether he was, in fact, her attacker. But the woman had two young children in the house and was unable to come to the scene, so officers then decided to take him to the victim.
“He refused to get into to the car,” McManus said. “So they explained to him why they stopped him, they explained to him why they needed to take him back, and he just refused to cooperate. So they forced him into the car, (and) in the process of doing that they were both kicked by him.”
But Maas told KENS 5, “here he is just minding his business, and they threw him in the back of the cop car. And because he didn’t get in the back of the car – he’s like, 'Why? I didn’t do anything wrong' – they decided, 'No, we’re going to beat the crap out of you and throw you in there regardless.'"
Online court records show Ometu, a graduate of the University of Texas at San Antonio and an insurance adjuster, has no prior criminal history in Bexar County. Ometu’s father told KENS 5 his son has never had a run-in with the law before Tuesday, adding he was glad someone was watching over his son.
After nearly 48 hours behind bars, Ometu posted bail Thursday. Ometu’s court-appointed attorney, Adam Kobs, declined to comment on the case.
On Friday, sources confirmed the actual suspect in Tuesday’s attack, Darren Anthony Smith Jr., had been taken into custody by officers. Despite Ometu not being the suspect they were seeking in Tuesday’s assault, McManus said body camera shows the officers followed policies and the law.
“On the other hand, had (officers) not done what they were supposed to do, I'd be standing here telling a different story about why we didn't do what we were supposed to do,” McManus said.
Late Thursday night, Mayor Ron Nirenberg took to Twitter, writing “I am seeking a full accounting of this incident, which is currently under investigation. We have to approach this situation seriously because every single resident deserves fair and equitable treatment from their city.” On Friday, he said he was calling for body-worn camera footage to be released.
While McManus said on Friday that the department will release that footage, it has still not been shared as of Friday, and it's unclear when it would be released by the agency.
“Because it's gotten so blown up, way out of proportion, we want to release it to show everybody what the officers actually did,” McManus said.
Asked whether he would release video in cases where he felt officers were potentially in the wrong, he said the agency will follow the law as it relates to the release of body camera footage.
Former San Antonio Mayor and one-time Democratic presidential hopeful Julian Castro on Thursday said Ometu was wrongfully detained. Castro’s brother, Congressman Joaquin Castro, tweeted that Ometu was subject to a wrongful arrest, and also called on police to release body camera video.
“I think there was a lot of reaction to this before everybody had the facts,” McManus said.
McManus last month issued four officers indefinite suspensions in connection with two separate incidents in which the officers were alleged to have used excessive force. He said he has no issue holding officers accountable for misconduct.
“Just as they're held accountable, I'm going to defend them when they do the right thing and are accused of not doing the right thing."