SAN ANTONIO — Newly released video is shedding light on the controversial arrest of a jogger who was detained August 25 after police said he matched the description of a man wanted on suspicion of choking his ex-wife.
The jogger who was detained, identified as Mathias Ometu, was not the individual police sought in connection with the domestic violence case. However, Ometu was booked on two felony charges of assaulting a peace officer after police alleged that Ometu kicked officers when they tried to put him into a patrol car.
Bexar County District Attorney Joe Gonzales said Tuesday that those two charges against Ometu would be dropped.
Ometu's attorney, Adam Kobs, said Tuesday afternoon that he had met with Bexar County District Attorney Joe Gonzales in recent days to discuss the case.
"We appreciate Bexar County District Attorney Joe Gonzales looking at these cases immediately and doing the right thing," Kobs said. "He, his staff and I met yesterday and spent many hours over the last few days reviewing the evidence."
"The San Antonio Police Department is far from blameless," Kobs continued. "They falsely accused and unjustly arrested an innocent Black man. SAPD’s misconduct needs to be investigated and we expect a future inquiry and examination to occur."
“I’m working out. Are you serious? I’m working out. I’m doing a run.”
In a memo to city leaders published by the San Antonio Police Department earlier Tuesday, San Antonio Police Chief William McManus elaborated he was taking the unusual step of releasing body-worn camera video of the main arresting officer in the incident in the interest of public safety.
The video, which lasts nearly two hours, begins with an officer approaching the victim at an apartment complex off of Woodstone Drive on the city’s northwest side. The officer is seen getting out of the vehicle, immediately asking the victim questions to build a description of the man, and is provided with a description of a black male in a green shirt
The officer is then seen getting back in his car, radioing a description to other responding officers, telling officers he thought he had passed the suspect while driving into the complex.
The officer catches up with Ometu off of Woodstone Drive, across from a car dealership, and asks Ometu, “Hey, what’s your name, brother?”
Ometu’s response is inaudible, but the officer responds, “Well, you kind of match the suspect description of what I’m looking for. What’s your name? What’s your name?” Ometu’s responses are, again, inaudible, but the officer asks “Why?” before saying, “Yeah you do. Yeah you do. OK.”
The officer is then seen getting out of his vehicle and approaching Ometu, to which Ometu tells officers, “I’m working out. Are you serious? I’m working out.”
The officer tells Ometu: “I just got a call for family violence.” To which Ometu responds: “I don’t care, dude. I’m not giving you my name. I’m just here working out.” During the exchange, Ometu stresses: “I don’t have to give you my name.”
One officer asks Ometu, “Why are you acting like this, man?” and Ometu responds “Because I’m working out and you’re bothering me. I’m being bothered on a f—king normal run.” The officer then explains Ometu matched the description of a domestic violence suspect, and Ometu replies, “I don’t care what description. I just want to do my damn run.”
Officers tell Ometu they need his name to ensure he is not the individual wanted in connection with the strangulation, and Ometu replies, “God damn, dude, I can’t even f—king do a damn run.” The officer then tells Ometu, “You think I want to be contacting you? No.”
Officers continue to ask for information, and Ometu declines to give his information, prompting officers to put him in handcuffs and inform him he is being detained until they can figure out his identity. He is asked to sit in the patrol unit until officers are able to sort out the case.
Ometu repeatedly tells officers he did nothing wrong, and questions officers, “did I break a rule?” “Did you see me do anything?” Officers respond that Ometu matched the description of a suspect in a family violence case. Ometu tells officers, “bring (the victim) here then. I’m not going anywhere.”
McManus in an interview Friday said the incident shouldn't have happened, telling KENS 5 Ometu could have avoided the ordeal by providing his information, though he was under no legal obligation to do so.
San Antonio's NAACP president Dr. Gregory Hudspeth agreed Monday that the incident shouldn't have happened, but cited different reasons.
“Because he’s African American, he was treated differently. He was not given the benefit of the doubt. The description the individual gave did not match his description," Hudspeth said. "That should have been the end of discussion.”
Former Bexar County District Attorney Nico LaHood last week 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 last week said officers were attempting to do just that—take the alleged victim to determine whether Ometu was, in fact, her attacker. But the woman had two young children in the house, ages 1 and 5, and was unable to come to the scene, so officers then decided to take him to the victim.
The officer can be heard talking to another officer the phone, who is with the victim, explaining the dilemma. “Oh my god,” the officer is heard sighing after learning that the victim is unable to come to the scene. The officer on the other line replies, “you’re going to have to bring them over here man.”
“The guy won’t get in the car. He’s not giving me anything,” the officer tells the officer on the other end of the line.
Officers then re-confirm the description with the victim, where officers learn that the suspected attacker has “a little bit of scruff on his chin,” and that the suspect was wearing black shorts, deviating from the initial description.
“Everything matches, except for the basketball shorts. They’re white with a black stripe and he’s got a pretty good-sized beard.” While it sounds as if officers confirm the suspect has a short beard, the other officer on the call tells the officer with Ometu, “It sounds like we’re going to have to identify him.”
When the officer concludes the call, he tells Ometu, “We’re going to drive you to the apartment and see if she identifies you.” Ometu responds that he will not go, telling officers, “You’re illegally detaining me,” remarking “If you’re legally detaining me, I’m staying right here.” The officer responds, asking Ometu, “Do you want to be released today or not?”
“I don’t want to have to do this but, all we got to do,” the officer explains, before Ometu replies “The only thing you have to do is leave me the f—k alone.” Officers again explain Ometu matches the description of a suspect in a domestic violence case and Ometu responds, “I’m sure I do. I’m sure I match the description.”
Officers then tell Ometu to get in the car, and he again refuses, prompting the officers to force him into the vehicle, yelling “get in the car! Get in the car. Quit making this difficult. Get in the car. Get in the car now. Quit fighting.”
The officer’s body-worn camera video falls on the ground and the view is obstructed, though Ometu can be heard yelling, “Are you choking me? Are you choking me? Are you choking me?” Each time the officer replies no.
Immediately after the exchange, one officer retrieves his body camera from the ground and places it back on himself. One of the two officers putting Ometu into the vehicle is heard saying Ometu kicked him in the eye.
"Their point should have been de-escalation and I did not see any effort to on their part to de-escalate what was going on," Hudspeth said of cellphone video depicting Ometu's arrest.
During the struggle, one officer hit their emergency tone, prompting several more to arrive at the scene. Officers who arrived at the scene are seen opening the other door to the patrol unit and Ometu can be heard telling them, “I don’t want to go anywhere.” Another officer is heard explaining the circumstances to Ometu, and he tells the officers, “So you’re going to drive me to the victim’s place? Really? Is that something – a good idea? I don’t know who the f—k you guys are talking about.”
Ometu is heard telling the officers he works for USAA and does not know who the victim. Ometu’s father, Victor Ometu, told KENS 5 his son is a University of Texas at San Antonio graduate and is an insurance adjustor for USAA.
Other officers who responded to the scene were able to go watch the victim’s young children while another officer brought the victim to the scene to identify Ometu. The victim told police Ometu was not the suspect.
Once officers confirmed Ometu was not the suspect, they are heard stating Ometu would need to be booked for felony assault of a police officer and failure to identify. Though, Ometu did not need to identify himself to officers and was not charged with the offense of failure to identify.
The arresting officer is heard calling his sergeant explaining he thought Ometu was the suspect because, in addition to matching the suspect’s description, Ometu did not identify himself and the suspect whom police sought had a warrant out for his arrest for robbery.
According to McManus’ memo and police sources, the actual suspect, Darren Anthony Smith Jr., was arrested on the robbery warrant Friday. The two bear little resemblance.
The body-worn camera video showed officers later had concerns that the victim intentionally did not identify Ometu as her attacker in an effort to protect him, claiming that she had become uncooperative with officers’ investigation. Officers said the victim’s children told police that the attacker also pointed a gun to the woman’s head, but that the victim denied that happened to officers, only admitting to the strangulation.
But, later in the video, an officer reveals that another officer encountered Smith, the actual suspect, around the scene of the crime. It’s unclear why police did not also detain Smith.
“(The officer) actually talked to the guy. Can you believe that?” one officer said.
“That’s ‘cause no one trusts the police.”
The arresting officer is heard telling other officers at the scene he was unsure why Ometu wouldn’t identify himself to officers despite not being involved in the crime. An officer responds, “That’s ‘cause no one trusts the police.”
McManus told city leaders that his agency will work with the District Attorney’s Office to “facilitate a possible dialogue with Mr. Ometu so that we can share perspectives of what occurred and hopefully help bridge the trust and communications gap that clearly exists.”
“I already sent this to all the news stations. The mayor knows about it. Just so you know.”
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.
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.'"
“They came into our office to intimidate us into giving information – they wanted our Facebook accounts – they wanted to see what I posted to get their stories straight I’m certain of that,” Maas said. “The reality is this man did not deserve to get the crap beat out of him for jogging and minding his own business.”
Body-worn camera video released Monday shows the encounter. Officers explained that they were trying to get information from witnesses.
Maas is heard telling the officers, “Do me a favor, (inaudible), could you have that gentleman leave?” pointing to the arresting officer. “I’ll talk to you guys outside, but I didn’t like what he was doing.”
The arresting officer then inquires what he did, to which Maas responds that he would like the officers to leave before he has to call “the real cops.” Another officer responds they are the real cops and that they are investigating a crime. Maas points to the arresting officer, telling the officer, “There’s your criminal.”
Maas is heard telling the officers he had sent video of Ometu’s arrest to news stations and had contacted the mayor.
“I know you guys have a tough job, I get that,” Maas said. ”But when you escalate things, not appropriate, especially in this day and age.” The officer responds that Maas can have his opinion and he will not inquire about it, and returned to asking Maas identifying questions.
Maas then begins streaming the encounter on Facebook live, because he said he did not trust the cops. Officers attempted to gather further information, which Maas and Rodriguez declined to give.
As the pair of officers returned to their patrol car, the arresting officer tells his partner, a Black man, that the couple took issue with the handling of Ometu’s arrest and that the arrest was broadcast through Facebook live.
“Well that’s cool, I guess. They can’t really say we’re being racist,” the arresting officer’s partner is heard saying before looking at his hands with his palms out.
When asked about the Black officer involved in the arrest and if diversity on the force helps, Hudspeth explained Monday it doesn’t cure the root issue of racism in policing.
"Obviously we want diversity on the police force, but diversity alone is not the answer a lot of it has to do with training and good policing," he said. "This was not good policing form my perspective."
Ometu plans to share his perspective on the arrest publicly downtown on Wednesday morning.