Black jogger detained by police in Florida yields different outcome than in San Antonio

Mathias Ometu and Joseph Griffin were both detained by police while jogging

Joseph Griffin, with Volusia County Deputies, on Aug. 27. (Click Orlando, Volusia County Sheriff's Office)

DELTONA, Fla. – Two days after a Black jogger was detained by San Antonio police who were looking for a family violence suspect, a similar situation played out in Deltona, Florida where another Black jogger was detained by deputies.

Both men have been cleared of any crimes, and now the Florida man, Joseph Griffin, has been asked to teach bias training to deputies with the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office (VCSO) at the request of Sheriff Mike Chitwood.

The cases of Griffin and Mathias Ometu, a jogger who was arrested by officers after they stopped him while investigating a felony family violence call, have some very close similarities and a few key differences.

In terms of similarities, both men were jogging when they were stopped by peace officers because they fit the description of a suspect in the area - including the clothes they were wearing at the time.

Griffin, according to CNN, fit the description of a man in the area suspected of stealing lawn equipment. Deputies said the suspect they were searching for was wearing a “white tank top, black shorts and they said that [the suspect] had a beard.”

In the case of Ometu, he was wearing bright-colored workout clothes and headphones and San Antonio police said he matched the description of a family violence suspect in the area.

This is where the major differences come into play for Ometu, who was detained on Aug. 25 and subsequently arrested, and Griffin, who was detained on Aug. 27 and released after roughly 15 minutes.

Video from Click Orlando shows body-worn camera footage from a VCSO deputy asking Griffin for his ID and explaining that Griffin matched a description of a suspected thief in the area. A deputy can be heard on the video reassuring Griffin saying “we’ll take care of you buddy, promise not going to let anything happen.”

A report from CNN states that the body-worn camera footage also shows a deputy telling Griffin “hey buddy, you’re not in any trouble or anything. There’s a burglary that happened - you kind of fit the description. Let me just make sure that you’re not him.”

During the encounter, Griffin handed his ID to the deputy and started a Facebook Live video. He tells the deputy that he is recording and that he had a daughter born two days prior. The deputy puts Griffin’s phone on the ground, with Griffin’s permission, and informs Griffin that his sergeant said Griffin needs to be detained.

“For now I’m going to detain you. But you’re not under arrest -- I’m detaining you right now because you fit the description,” the deputy can be heard saying in the bodycam footage.

Under Section 901.151 of the Florida Statutes, law enforcement officials have the right to detain a person if they have a reasonable suspicion that a person has committed a crime.

Several additional deputies arrive and Griffin is handcuffed before being released and cleared around 15 minutes later, according to Click Orlando.

For Ometu, however, the situation escalated after he was handcuffed by San Antonio police. Ometu, who refused to give his name or date of birth to officers, was placed in a police SUV after speaking with officers for several minutes based on eyewitness cellphone video and an officer’s body cam footage of the incident.

Texas Penal Code 38.02, which addresses “failure to identify,” states that any person commits a crime if they intentionally refuse to give their name or date of birth to an officer who has lawfully arrested that person.

In Ometu’s case, he had not yet been arrested and was within his legal right to refuse to identify himself.

Following a struggle with officers, Ometu was arrested, taken into custody and charged with two counts of assaulting a police officer after he allegedly kicked two officers who were trying to force him into the police SUV.

Ometu said Wednesday that he “did not intentionally kick, scratch, or harm any officer,” and that he was “was guilty before proven innocent,” while admitting he was aggravated during the incident.

Following the struggle to get Ometu into the car, officers were finally able to get the victim to the scene to identify whether Ometu was the man she accused of injuring her.

After she repeatedly told them Ometu was not her ex-husband, the body cam footage shows officers still continuing to wonder if he was, calling it “too much of a coincidence” for Ometu not to be the guy.

Ometu spent two days in the Bexar County jail before the charges against him were dropped one week after the incident. Police officials also released the body camera footage in his arrest.

San Antonio Police Chief William McManus also released a statement regarding Ometu’s case saying, in part, “What occurred was an unfortunate situation for everyone involved. Although he fit the description of a domestic violence suspect, Mr. Ometu was doing nothing wrong when he was stopped, and the officers were only doing their jobs when they stopped him.”

“It is clear that pursuing charges against Mr. Ometu would not bring us closer to our goals of building trust and creating partnerships with our community. We have invited Mr. Ometu to start a dialogue on policing in San Antonio, and that invitation will remain open,” McManus said.

Currently, there is no word on whether or not Ometu has taken McManus up on the offer, however, Chitwood told CNN that Griffin, a former military police officer, would be hosting training sessions with the VCSO staff.

“Mr. Griffin was great with my deputies. And my deputies were extremely professional. I called each and every one of them to thank them for their professionalism. I called Mr. Griffin, too, and thanked him for how he handled the situation. When you get stopped by police this is how to act. This really is a teachable moment. We can learn from each other,” Chitwood told CNN.

The suspects officers were searching for in both cases were eventually identified and arrested.

“No one will say you’re wrong for being frustrated because it’s scary and frustrating. But, I will say if you remain calm, at least 85% of the time the situation will go your way. Yes, the officer has authority, but in the end, you have control,” Griffin told Click Orlando. “This is one of the best examples that I’ve seen as far as civilians being compliant and officers actually trying to assure the civilians that we’re not out to get you.”

Griffin is a former military police officer and Chitwood told CNN they offered him a job as a Volusia County deputy but he declined because he already has a job in healthcare.

As for Ometu, his civil attorney, Tess House, said Wednesday they are still planning their next move.

“I was treated unfairly, and that has to be addressed,” Ometu said. “I was physically, emotionally and mentally harmed, and that has to be addressed.”

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