Black man arrested while jogging sues SAPD a year after being mistaken for domestic violence suspect

Mathias Ometu claims officers used excessive force, assaulted him during Aug. 2020 arrest

Mathias Ometu being taken into SAPD custody August 25, 2020.
Mathias Ometu being taken into SAPD custody August 25, 2020. (KSAT)

SAN ANTONIO – A man seen on camera being forced into the back of a San Antonio police patrol vehicle after officers mistook him for a domestic violence suspect last year has sued the officers and Chief William McManus, court records obtained Wednesday by the KSAT Defenders confirm.

The suit, filed on behalf of Mathias Ometu on Aug. 25 in Bexar County state district court, accuses the arresting officers of using excessive force, assault, and violating Ometu’s constitutional rights.

Ometu, a Black man, was arrested in late August 2020 after police stopped him for “fitting the description” of a family violence suspect they were seeking, even though the victim’s description differed from Ometu’s physical profile, according to body camera footage released days after Ometu’s arrest.

The San Antonio Express-News was the first outlet to report on the filing of Ometu’s lawsuit.

Ometu’s arrest made national headlines and sparked debates about whether a person detained by police should identify himself or herself, even if he or she is not charged with a crime.

‘I was guilty before proven innocent:’ Jogger speaks out after encounter with San Antonio police

Although Ometu was not the suspect police were searching for, he was jailed and accused of assaulting two police officers during the struggle.

The criminal charges against Ometu, however, were dropped within days at the request of the officers who arrested him and Bexar County District Attorney Joe Gonzales.

While jogging near Interstate 10 and Woodstone Drive, Ometu said he noticed a police car slow down by him before speeding past him and turning back around toward him.

Ometu said he felt targeted by the police, who were looking for Darren Smith Jr., later arrested on an unrelated robbery warrant.

When police told Ometu they wanted to take him to the apartment complex so the victim would identify him as the suspect, he persisted on remaining where he was.

“Once those doors close on you, you never know when they’re going to open again,” Ometu said during a press conference days after he was released from jail.

McManus previously said officers acted appropriately during the arrest and that they requested to have the charges dropped in an effort to help the community heal in a time where policing and race was being scrutinized on a national level.

In a 2020 memo, McManus wrote that the family violence victim described her ex-husband as a “Black male wearing a green shirt, medium build with a scruffy beard.” Ometu was jogging in the area with a green shirt on.

Ometu’s 23-page lawsuit includes a side-by-side picture of him and Smith, showing how different the two men look.

Smith pleaded true to the family violence allegation in January, during a motion to revoke hearing in the unrelated robbery case.

Prosecutors previously said the family violence case against Smith did not proceed to trial because the alleged victim wanted the charge against him dropped.

The suit also accuses authorities of appointing Ometu an attorney, Rudolph Monsalvo, who had been dead nine years at the time of Ometu’s arrest. County officials previously denied that claim.

In a Sept. 15 response to the suit, attorneys for the city denied Ometu’s allegations and asserted governmental immunity, which offers protections to officers acting within the confines of their official duties.

A spokeswoman for the city attorney’s office released the following statement:

“The Chief conducted a review of the incident and found that the officers acted appropriately. We will seek a speedy resolution of this matter in the courts.”


About the Authors:

Emmy-award winning reporter Dillon Collier joined the KSAT 12 Defenders in 2016. Dillon's investigative stories air weeknights on the Nightbeat. He provides restaurant health reports for KSAT's "Behind the Kitchen Door." Dillon is a two-time Houston Press Club Journalist of the Year and a Texas Associated Press Broadcasters Reporter of the Year.

Fares Sabawi has been a journalist in San Antonio for four years. He has covered several topics, but specializes in crime, courts, open records and data visualization.