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Mathias Ometu, Black Jogger Arrested By San Antonio Police, Wants His Name Fully Cleared

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Joey Palacios
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Texas Public Radio
Mathias Ometu, 33, said he feared for his life during an encouter where SAPD offiers said he fit the description of a domestic violence suspect

Mathias Ometu has spoken publicly for the first time since San Antonio police arrested him on Aug. 25. Officers mistook Ometu, a Black man who was jogging at the time of the arrest, for a domestic violence suspect.

Despite the dropped charges, Ometu said his name is still not cleared.

After declining to provide his name, officers placed Ometu in handcuffs and claimed he assaulted them while they tried to place him in a patrol car. He was in jail for two days before posting a $20,000 bond. Now, Ometu plans to file a civil rights lawsuit.

Outside the Bexar County Courthouse Wednesday with a group of supporters, Ometu said he was punished for invoking his rights.

“I was physically, emotionally and mentally harmed, and that has to be addressed. Multiple cops either not knowing or ignoring the rights of Texas residents — this has to be addressed.”

San Antonio Police were investigating a family violence incident when they saw Ometu out for a jog and believed he matched the description of the suspect. When approached, he declined to identify himself, which is allowed under Texas law.

Officers handcuffed Ometu, and as they attempted to place him in a patrol car, the officers claimed he kicked and scratched them. During the struggle, Ometu said he was slammed into the vehicle and sustained injuries to his back and neck.

“I was bent forward with two grown men pressing on my back. I was yanked by an officer by my neck, my legs twisted contorted in awkward and uncomfortable positions. I felt each finger the officers pressed into my throat,” Ometu said.

Ometu said the two officers wanted to confirm if he was the suspect they were looking for and attempted to contact the victim who filed the claim. After she confirmed Ometu was not her assaulter, two charges of assault against a peace officer – a felony – were filed against Ometu and he spent the next two days in the Bexar County Jail.

The incident is recorded in a more than 90-minute body cam video released by San Antonio Police; however, much of the struggle portion of the tape is obscured from view. An attorney, Victor Mass, recorded the struggle from a different angle.

The charges were rejected and dropped by Bexar County District Attorney Joe Gonzales who said on Tuesday that Ometu was within his legal right to not identify himself, adding the officers involved were fine with dropping the charges.

“Neither officer wishes to have him incur any future consequences as a result of this incident. This case is one of competing interests. It is the officer’s duty to investigate and detain a person of interest that may be a suspect in a crime versus a citizen’s right not to disclose their identification where no arrest has been made.”

Although San Antonio Police Chief William McManus said Ometu did nothing wrong, he also said that his officers acted appropriately while investigating the domestic violence case. He said Ometu was not under arrest but legally detained.

“Officers understand that rule that he did not have to [give his name], but the easiest way to have gotten through that issue was if he had said his name, they could have been out of there in minutes …,” McManus said during a Tuesday press conference. “Even though he didn’t give his name, officers still have to investigate, follow through and make sure that this man was not the one who assaulted his ex-wife.”

San Antonio-based civil rights attorney Artessia House represents Ometu. She pushed back against the chief’s recognition that Ometu did not need to identify himself.

“If that’s the case, then why detain him? If that’s the case, then why put him in handcuffs? He wasn’t going anywhere, he wasn’t running anywhere, but you will see another abuse of force by law enforcement,” House said. 

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Credit Joey Palacios / Texas Public Radio
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Texas Public Radio
Mathias Ometu is joined by his attorneys Artessia House and Adam Kobs outside the Bexar County Courthouse.

She added that Ometu is a regular runner who is an insurance agent employed by USAA.

“He hadn’t committed any crime. He was a productive member of society minding his own business. I don’t believe that that burden shifts upon the innocent. That burden shifts upon their police officers to do what they should have been trained to do, and that was to execute a thorough investigation,” she said.

Ometu was appointed a public defender, Adam Kobs, who also criticized McManus’ take on what should have happened.

“That’s a problem that not only endorses this type of behavior, that blesses this type of behavior, and change needs to start from the top. If you make a mistake, you do something wrong, you admit it, you apologize,” Kobs said.

A civil suit had not yet been filed as of Wednesday afternoon.

“We are entertaining all that is available to us, and we will release that information to you as soon as that is done,” House said. 

Joey Palacios can be reached at Joey@TPR.org and on Twitter at @Joeycules.

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