Prosecutors dropped all charges Tuesday against a Black jogger who was mistaken for a domestic-violence suspect in Texas, but then arrested due to the ensuing interaction with police officers.
Mathias Ometu, 33, had been booked on suspicion of two counts of assault on a peace officer following his run-in with police last week.
But then on Tuesday, both of those counts against Ometu were dismissed, court records showed.
“After reviewing all the evidence as well as considering all the facts and circumstances, I have decided that the just outcome is the dismissal of all charges against Mr. Ometu,” Bexar County District Attorney Joe Gonzales said in a prepared statement.
While Ometu turned out to be the wrong person, the prosecutor refused to fault officers.
“In this case, the officers did have a description that led them to believe that Mr. Ometu may have been the suspect they were seeking,” Gonzales said.
“However, Mr. Ometu was not that person and did not have an obligation to identify himself or make a statement. Ultimately, the officers agree that dismissal is in the interest of justice.”
Ometu, an insurance adjuster, was jogging on Aug. 25 when San Antonio police pulled up on him, believing he matched the description of a man involved in nearby domestic-violence report.
San Antonio police released body camera footage of the officers questioning Ometu, telling him he matched the suspect’s description. Ometu is Black and was wearing a green shirt, like the suspect.
But the woman also told police her abusive ex-husband had “just a little bit of scruff on his chin,” according to the video.
Ometu has a pronounced, long and noticeable beard.
“I’m not getting into the car, I didn’t do anything,” Ometu told officers before they tried loading him into their car to take him to the woman for identification.
The officers said they had no choice, because he matched a description.
“Yeah, I’m sure I do,” Ometu said, seemingly sarcastically. “I’m sure I match the description.”
A physical struggle between police and Ometu ensued as officers tried to force him into the vehicle, lasting about two minutes. The video released Tuesday goes dark during the altercation, perhaps because the camera is knocked off the officer. But the audio kept recording.
“Get in the car, quit fighting!” one of the officers screamed.
“You’re choking me!” Ometu repeatedly said.
At one point, it sounds like Ometu screams and moans in agony, coinciding with a buzzing noise.
The struggle to get Ometu locked into the car turned out to be unnecessary, because police were able to drive the woman to the scene. Her voice couldn’t be clearly heard on the body camera, but she appeared to be telling the officers Ometu wasn’t the man who had choked her.
“That’s not him? OK. Not at all? Even in the face nothing at all?” an officer asked. “That’s for sure 100 percent not him?”
That same officer then walked away to tell his colleagues: “That’s not him.”
Jenifer Rodriguez, who was walking her dog, told NBC News she saw police approach and handcuff Ometu as the jogger asked: “What did I do?”
“So he’s in handcuffs and they are not telling him what he did wrong,” said Rodriguez, who then rushed to get her boyfriend, Victor Maas, who worked nearby and showed up moments later.
Both witnesses took cell phone video of officers struggling to get Ometu into the back of their vehicle. Despite Ometu’s hesitation to sit in the car, Rodriguez and Maas said the handcuffed jogger wasn’t fighting back.
“This is the key to this whole thing: He wasn’t being aggressive. They were being aggressive. He did not assault them,” Maas said.
“They assaulted him, choked him and Tased him. And now they’re trying to cover their butts. And what’s worse is that police chief is backing them up. I think they could have de-escalated.”
Officers claim they were kicked by Ometu, leading to his arrest.
The jogger’s father, Victor Ometu, insisted his son did nothing wrong.
“If you saw you were being approached by such a force and handcuffed, you will panic,” Victor Ometu told NBC affiliate WOAI. “Especially when you know that you didn’t do nothing wrong.”
San Antonio Police Chief William McManus, in a memo dated Sunday to City Manager Erik Walsh, defended his officers and accused Ometu of escalating the confrontation by refusing to identify himself — although he was under no legal obligation to do so.
“I have determined that the officers acted appropriately, within their legal authority,” McManus said in the memo that was made public on Tuesday.
“Unfortunately the situation could have been resolved within minutes with any degree of information sharing with the police officers.”