SAN ANTONIO – The release of the mugshot of the felony family violence suspect San Antonio police were looking for when they detained and then arrested a jogger last week has raised even more questions about the case.
Mathias Ometu, 33, was jogging along Woodstone Drive near Interstate 10 Tuesday afternoon when officers stopped him.
Police say Ometu, who was wearing bright-colored workout clothes and headphones, matched the description of a possibly armed suspect in a felony family violence call nearby and officers wanted to talk to him.
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 last week.
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.”
Ometu was later arrested and charged with two felony counts of assault of a peace officer after SAPD officials said 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 is scheduled to appear in court Sept. 29, records show.
That actual suspect, identified by SAPD sources as Darren Smith Jr., was later taken into custody and booked at the Bexar County Jail on an unrelated robbery warrant.
Geary Reamey, a constitutional law professor at St. Mary’s University School of Law, said during a Zoom interview Monday that it would ultimately be up to a court to decide if officers had enough reasonable suspicion to detain Ometu, who by law was not required to identify himself to officers.
“Those images obviously are of two very different people. Except for the fact that they are Black males and both have some facial hair. I would say that there’s very little similarity in the two men,” said Reamey, who added that the photos do not make clear compared heights or builds.
Reamey said based on what has happened in the United States the past several months, Ometu’s response to being detained should not be at all surprising.
“I can understand why a Black man might have that reaction to being confronted with the police. So, I think part of the reason why this story has garnered so much attention is because it demonstrates as much as anything the distrust that Black men might reasonably have in dealing with the police. And that’s very unfortunate because in most cases, the police will not treat anybody in an abusive way. But because it does happen and sometimes happens in a very public forum, I think there is a lot of uncertainty about engaging with the police. And that’s too bad,” said Reamey.
The incident came 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.
Ometu, who was released on bond Thursday and given a court-appointed attorney, has so far declined KSAT’s requests to do an on-camera interview.
He sent the following message to the Defenders through Facebook messenger Monday:
Thank you for reaching out and for shining light on my situation. I am currently without a phone until I am able to pick it up from SAPD. I’m am basically using a old phone through WiFi. However, my microphone is currently broken. Once the time is right and I am ready, I will reach out to you. Thank you for understanding and your patience.
SAPD officials on Monday declined to make Chief William McManus available for an interview, but indicated they were working on releasing officer body-worn camera footage of Ometu’s arrest as well as a memo from McManus that “will answer any questions that people may have.”
The move to release footage came days after San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg called on the department to do so.
Jail officials confirmed Monday that Smith was being held without bond on a motion to revoke probation warrant from a previous robbery case.
Smith was convicted of robbery in late 2017 and was given probation instead of jail time.
A warrant was issued for Smith’s arrest in April 2018, but he was not taken into custody until Friday, court records show.
He has so far not been charged in connection to the family violence call and SAPD officials have not officially confirmed whether he was the suspect officers were actually looking for.