SAN ANTONIO – Hours before charges were dropped on Tuesday for a Black man accused of assaulting two SAPD officers, San Antonio Police Department Chief William McManus said the officers acted appropriately when they arrested him.
SAPD also released body-worn camera footage of the nearly 2-hour encounter on Tuesday — showing for the first time the specific description officers used to detain Ometu and the conversation between him and officers — following days of backlash from the public and some elected officials, including the current and former mayor.
Mathias Ometu, 33, was initially charged with two felony counts of assaulting a peace officer and spent two days in jail last week after he was confused by police for a suspect in a family violence case and a scuffle ensued during the encounter.
Ometu’s charges were dropped Tuesday, according to District Attorney Joe Gonzales, who noted that Ometu “did not have an obligation to identify himself” and that the arresting officers requested the charges not be pursued.
On Tuesday, McManus said the officers “acted appropriately, within their legal authority and in a professional manner” and tried to “de-escalate” the situation. McManus said in his statement that Ometu was “immediately uncooperative and antagonistic.”
“Unfortunately, the situation could have been resolved within minutes with any degree of information sharing with the police officers that would have helped them determine Mr. Ometu was not the suspect they were looking for,” McManus said. “... Eventually, the victim was brought to the scene to view Mr. Ometu and told the officers he was not the suspect. Despite confirmation that he was not the suspect, Mr. Ometu still refused to identify himself.”
SAPD has posted the full Body Worn Camera footage of one of the arresting officers who responded to an alleged domestic violence incident on 8/25/20 here: https://t.co/R0PRIY8UlR— San Antonio PD (@SATXPolice) September 1, 2020
Police Chief William McManus reviewed the incident and shares his conclusions (memo attached). pic.twitter.com/IIe3DunSWF
New footage adds context to encounter
Though footage of Ometu’s arrest was already posted on social media by passersby who recorded part of the encounter, police released its footage Tuesday, which includes the description an officer was given that lead to his encounter with Ometu.
San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg called on the police department to publicly release the footage of their arrest last week. McManus said the department is releasing the footage because he understands “that the public has questions and concerns about this matter given the media attention it has already received and the heightened awareness of racial injustice.”
The video begins with an SAPD officer interviewing the victim of the family violence call on Aug. 25. He asks the victim what color shirt her ex-husband was wearing. “Green,” she replied.
The officer then asks if the ex-husband has a beard. The woman replied, “Kind of.”
The officer then reported to dispatchers that the suspect was roughly 6 feet 4 inches with a “full, black beard,” the video shows.
The officer leaves to search for the suspect and appeared to call another officer for guidance. In that call, he appears to reference Ometu, who he said he saw before talking to the victim.
“Negative,” the officer said to a question that could not be heard. “I passed him coming in but I didn’t know what he looked like until I just now talked to the complainant. Yeah, he was on foot, he was coming out of the complex when I was pulling in.”
As the officer leaves to search for the suspect, he spots Ometu and pulls up to him in his patrol vehicle.
“What’s your name, brother,” the officer said as he got out of his patrol vehicle, according to the video. “You kinda match the description of the suspect I’m looking for.”
Ometu, wearing a green shirt, white basketball shorts and headphones, responds: “I’m working out, are you serious? I’m on a run. I’m not giving you my name.”
Officers said Ometu matched a description of the suspect, who had allegedly beat and choked his ex-wife. After officers approached Ometu, demanding he provide his name to prove he wasn’t the suspect, Ometu said he didn’t do anything wrong and refused to give his name — a legal right provided to people in Texas who have not been arrested or observed operating a motor vehicle.
Officers handcuffed Ometu and detained him.
“Did I break a rule?” Ometu asked, adding that he wanted to stay in the place where he was detained as opposed to the back of the officer’s patrol vehicle. Officers initially agreed.
The officer asked dispatch for the suspect’s name — Darren Smith Jr. He also used his in-vehicle computer to search for the assault suspect’s photo and information, though the screen is blurred out in the video released by police.
The video shows that as Ometu was handcuffed on the curb near the patrol vehicle, the officer called the victim who reported the assault to get more information about his physical appearance. The officer asks if her ex-husband was wearing a hat, a neon green shirt and other information. Her response is not heard on video.
The officer then steps out and asks Ometu to tell him his name again. Ometu asked to talk to the officer’s superior.
“Don’t touch me, bro,” Ometu told the officer when he reached for his shorts.
The officer calls on another officer to see if the victim can come to the location to identify him, but because she has children with her they decide to take Ometu to her location.
“The guy won’t get in the car,” the officer said.
“Do you have enough to detain him,” the other officer, who is with the victim, asked.
“I mean, he matched the description pretty good,” the detaining officer asked.
The other officer asks the victim for a more detailed description of Smith. She tells the officer the man only had a “little scruff on his chin.”
“Everything matches except for the basketball shorts,” the detaining officer said. “They’re white with a black stripe. And then he’s got a pretty good-sized beard, but everything else matches.” (At some point, the officer was told the suspect had black basketball shorts.)
Roughly 30 minutes into the video, SAPD officers attempt to get Ometu to enter the patrol vehicle to take him to the victim’s residence for her to confirm whether he was the suspect.
“If I’m being detained, I’m staying right here,” Ometu said.
Ometu asks the officer to “leave me the f--- alone,” before refusing to get in the car.
A struggle begins as officers force him in the vehicle.
“Get in the car now! Quit fighting!” officers called out. The camera is blocked during some of the struggle. After Ometu is put in the car, an officer said Ometu kicked him right in the eye.
As more officers responded, one asks the detaining officer if he had a picture of Smith. “Does he look like (Ometu,)” the officer asked.
“Yeah,” the officer said. “Everything but the beard.”
Ometu continued telling officers he had no involvement in what they were investigating.
‘That’s for sure 100% not him?’
Eventually, officers bring the victim to the scene to see if she can identify Ometu as the suspect.
When she says Ometu is not her ex-husband, the officer responds: “It’s not him?” “Okay, not at all?” “Even the face? Nothing like that? That wasn’t what he’s wearing when he left? That’s for sure 100% not him?”
Again, she confirmed Ometu wasn’t the suspect.
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” the officer says to himself as he walks back to inform the other officers that Ometu was not Smith.
“All he needed to do was give us his name and his date of birth,” one officer reacted.
Upon hearing that Ometu was not the suspect, one officer said “I had a strong suspicion he wasn’t.”
“The fact of the matter remains you still had a lawful reason to contact him because he fit the description, he failed to ID, and two officers got assaulted,” a supervisor responded.
“I mean, I don’t know if I got assaulted,” the detaining officer said at first.
“You got assaulted,” an officer responded.
The supervisor directed investigators to photograph the injuries and directed both officers to write supplemental reports about the incident.
Even after the victim didn’t identify Ometu, the officers still wondered if he was the suspect.
“I mean, his nostrils kind of looked the same on the mugshot,” the detaining officer said.
A few minutes later, the officer proposed calling a phone number they had for Smith to see if Ometu’s phone would ring. The phone went straight to voicemail, and Ometu’s phone didn’t ring.
“Maybe he has more than one phone, you know,” the detaining officer figured. “This is too much of a coincidence for this not to be the guy.”
Ometu was then transported to the Bexar County Jail on the assault of peace officer charges.
Police did eventually find the suspect, Darren Smith Jr., on Friday, according to SAPD sources. He was taken into custody on an unrelated robbery warrant and has so far not been charged in connection with the family violence call.