SAN ANTONIO – A Black man seen on cell phone video being detained by officers then physically forced into the back of a patrol vehicle was not the suspect they were looking for, San Antonio Police Department officials have now acknowledged.
But as questions about the incident continue to swirl, San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg has called for a full investigation into the incident.
Mathias Ometu, 33, posted bail Thursday after spending roughly two days in Bexar County Jail, court records showed. He is now being represented by Adam Kobs.
Ometu was jogging along Woodstone Drive near Interstate 10 Tuesday afternoon when officers stopped him, SAPD officials and multiple eyewitnesses confirm.
Police say Ometu, who was wearing bright-colored workout clothes and headphones, matched the description of an armed suspect in a felony family violence call nearby and officers wanted to talk to him.
Ometu, an insurance adjuster who does not have a criminal record, repeatedly refused to give his name or date of birth to police, which is a legal right in Texas unless the person is arrested or operating a motor vehicle. Officers who stopped Ometu claimed they had “reasonable suspicion” to believe he matched the description of the family violence suspect.
“The information that they relayed out to other officers responding to the scene was that the male had fled the location and was wearing a bright green shirt and shorts,” an SAPD spokesperson said.
Cell phone video recorded by multiple eyewitnesses shows Ometu being placed into handcuffs after several minutes of speaking with SAPD officers. “Officers advised (Ometu) if he was not the person they were looking for, then he would be released,” an SAPD spokesperson said.
Eventually, officers handcuffed Ometu and told him to get into the back of the police SUV. SAPD officials said the officers detained Ometu because his “demeanor became aggressive.”
“There was nothing normal about that, about a guy jogging and getting pulled over and then getting detained like that,” said eyewitness Jennifer Rodriguez, who used her phone to record several minutes of Ometu’s interaction with officers.
“Officers advised (Ometu) to have a seat in the patrol vehicle. (He) resisted being placed in the patrol vehicle. After a long struggle and using only open hand techniques, (Ometu) was successfully placed in the patrol vehicle. During this incident the officers hit their emergency tone button on their radio to have more officers assist because of (Ometu) resisting being placed in the patrol vehicle,” the spokesperson said.
Police allege that during the struggle, Ometu “forcefully used his legs to kick in the officer’s direction and his foot made contact with the officer,” the spokesperson wrote. “... A second officer was injured by (Ometu) physically kicking him in the face. The officer complained of face pain from the incident.”
Ometu and the officers were treated by EMS at the scene, according to information provided by SAPD.
The victim of the initial family violence incident was later brought to the scene and confirmed that Ometu was not the person who assaulted her, SAPD records show.
Ometu was charged with two felony counts of assault on a police officer and he remains in the Bexar County Jail two days later on a $20,000 bond, jail records show.
A second eyewitness, San Antonio attorney Victor Maas, said he began recording the incident with his phone because of what he’s seen happen to other Black people stopped by police.
Maas said SAPD officers later came into his office and asked for his Facebook information.
He said he declined to provide it and told them to leave because they were infringing on his civil rights.
Ometu’s father, Victor Ometu, told the KSAT 12 Defenders Thursday during a phone interview from Seattle, Washington, that he could not recall a single instance of his son ever interacting with police.
“It was a very painful experience of watching it. Extremely painful,” said Victor Ometu, after watching footage of his son’s arrest.
The Defenders could find no criminal history for Mathias Ometu, who is originally from Virginia.
SAPD Chief William McManus was not made available for an interview Thursday.
Sgt. Michelle Ramos, an SAPD spokeswoman, said Thursday afternoon the case could have been prevented had Ometu simply cooperated with police.
“I understand that everyone is hypersensitive with everything going on in the country. The officers legally detained the individual and if he believes that officers stopped him for no apparent reason – he can always file a complaint with our Internal Affairs Unit,” Ramos wrote via email.
The incident comes toward the end of a summer in which millions across the world have participated in a civil rights movement — seeking racial justice and protesting discriminatory treatment and violence of Black Americans by police — that has spilled into major professional sports leagues and other institutions. The Black Lives Matter movement was ignited, including in San Antonio, after the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
SAPD officials previously provided this description of Ometu’s detainment then subsequent arrest:
“We’re aware of several videos of this incident that have been posted online. 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 individual contacted was in close proximity to the call and he matched the physical and clothing description provided by the victim. That was the only reason he was stopped and questioned as the officers legitimately believed he was the wanted suspect. This incident will be reviewed administratively to ensure all policies were followed.”SAPD Sgt. Michelle Ramos
The Defenders have requested officer body-worn camera footage and dashboard camera footage from the arrest.
Geary Reamey, a constitutional law professor at St. Mary’s University School of Law, explained in a Zoom interview Thursday the threshold of probable cause must be met in order for a person to be required to identify themselves to a police officer. A person who is detained, but not arrested, need not identify himself or herself, but may not provide false identification information if it is volunteered.
“The thing I would tell people is to always ask a police officer ’am I free to go?’” said Reamey, who added that it is important to establish right at the beginning of an interaction with police why that interaction is even taking place.
“To be clear, the offense for Failure to Identify applies to people who are under arrest or detention. Whether a person is required to I.D. depends on whether the detention is lawful. That, in turn, depends on whether the description is good enough to produce reasonable suspicion,” wrote Reamey in a follow-up email.
Records show Ometu was not charged with misdemeanor failure to identify to a peace officer.
SAPD officials confirmed Thursday the suspect in the family violence case, who has a felony warrant pending, was not found and that incident remains under investigation.