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Investigation Open After San Antonio Police Mistakenly Identify Black Jogger

File photo: A San Antonio Police Department vehicle sits parked on June 3, 2020.
Dominic Anthony Walsh | Texas Public Radio
File photo: A San Antonio Police Department vehicle sits parked on June 3, 2020.

San Antonio police officers arrested a Black jogger on the city’s Northwest Side on Tuesday Aug. 25, after mistakenly identifying him as a suspect in a family violence call. Now, officials with the San Antonio Police Department say an administrative review is underway into the struggle.

Police said the review will determine if all police department policies were followed during the arrest.

The incident involving 33-year-old Mathias Ometu was captured on videos by passersby and posted online.

“We’re aware of several videos of this incident that have been posted online,” said a statement released by the SAPD public information office. 

“Based on the preliminary information the individual arrested was contacted after officers were called to investigate a family violence incident. The suspect fled before police arrived, but the victim provided officers with the suspect’s information and officers also obtained information that the suspect was also wanted for a felony robbery warrant.” 

The victim told police officers she had been punched and choked, and gave a description of the suspect.

A preliminary police report said officers encountered Ometu on a road leading out of an apartment complex near I-10 and Woodstone Drive, the same complex where the family violence incident was reported. The encounter occurred around 2:38 p.m. on Tuesday.

Officers said they believed Ometu matched the description, so they activated their police cruiser’s lights and told him they needed to speak to him. Then, the report said, the officers told Ometu they had a reasonable suspicion to believe he matched the description of the suspect and asked for his name and date of birth.

Police said Ometu did not comply with their request, and was handcuffed “for his safety as well as officer safety” without incident.

The interaction happened near the real estate law office of Victor Maas, where from the parking lot he and his girlfriend, Jennifer Rodriguez, recorded on her phone.

Rodriguez said she was walking her dog when it unfolded right in front of her. She heard Ometu, an insurance adjuster, say “What did I do?” and “I’m not going to give you my name.” 

Police said they told Ometu if he was not the person they were looking for he would be released. They added he was not under arrest but he was being detained for further questioning.

They said when they asked him to step into the patrol vehicle, Ometu refused and a struggle ensued. The report stated open-hand techniques were used to get him in the vehicle.

In response, Ometu kicked at the officers who were trying to get him into the vehicle. According to the report, he hit both, including one in the face. The officers called for backup.

Maas said police officers should have recognized Ometu was out for a jog and listening to music. He was dressed in jogging attire.

“This guy should not be afraid jogging down the street,” Maas said. “He looked scared.  Like, ‘I’ve done nothing wrong.’ Like, ‘My freedom is being taken from me.’”

Maas said police did not deescalate the encounter which he believed continued over a period of 15 minutes. 

EMS arrived at the scene and treated the officers and Ometu.

It was at this time, the report said, the victim who made the domestic violence report arrived at the scene and said Ometu was not the man who attacked her. 

Ometu did not identify himself. He was taken to Municipal Court, where he was identified and charged with two counts of assaulting a police officer.

He was released from jail on a $20,000 bond on Thursday afternoon, according to the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office.

According to state law, a person is not required to provide their identity to police, but they are required to follow officer instructions during detainment.

Rodriguez likened the encounter to “jogging while Black” — a nod to Ahmaud Arbery and other Black joggers who have faced discrimination.

“This would have never happened to me,” said Rodriguez, who lives in the same area.

District 8 Councilman Manny Palaez, whose jurisdiction covers the area where the incident occurred, has not seen the bodycam footage yet. He said he recognizes “in today’s climate there is added scrutiny and concerns where biases may be in play in police interactions.” 

"It is imperative that suspected incidents of racial bias be investigated, and it is also imperative that all incidents of domestic violence are thoroughly investigated and measures are taken to protect victims," Palaez wrote in a statement. 

Rodriguez and Maas said they wonder what would have happened had they not been there recording.

Ometu’s father, Victor, thanked the couple for capturing the incident. When reached by Texas Public Radio, he declined to comment further on his son’s encounter with police.

Maas said he was told by Victor that his son had never been in trouble with the law.

Brian Kirkpatrick can be reached at Brian@TPR.org and on Twitter at @TPRBrian.

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