Witness: Texas officers arrested jogger because he’s Black

August 29, 2020 GMT

SAN ANTONIO (AP) — A witness who saw Texas police officers arrest a Black man they suspected of a crime said authorities detained him while he was jogging because of the color of his skin.

San Antonio police were called Tuesday to investigate a man suspected of choking and punching a woman at an apartment complex when they saw Mathias Ometu, a 33-year-old insurance adjuster, leave the complex on foot on the city’s North Side, a city police report states.

The two officers, one of whom is Black, said they stopped him as he jogged because he matched the person’s description. Police said they repeatedly asked Ometu for his name, but he declined to answer, the San Antonio Express-News reported. The Texas Penal Code states that a person being detained or questioned by police is not required to provide identifying information.

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A police department spokeswoman said in a statement released Thursday that the incident was under administrative review.

“The individual contacted was in close proximity to the call, and he matched the physical and clothing description provided by the victim,” the statement said, which did not indicate whether their intended suspect had been apprehended.

Jenny Rodriguez was jogging nearby when she captured the arrest on video, which shows the officers pushing Ometu towards the police car after he allegedly refused to get in. He pushed back before the officers were able to force him into the car, while Ometu could be heard repeatedly screaming: “You’re choking me.”

The report said that officers used “only open hand techniques” to get Ometu in the vehicle and that he also kicked both of the officers.

The victim of the violent incident later arrived to the scene where she then informed police that Ometu was not the man who assaulted her. Ometu was still transported to Municipal Court for “identification purposes,” according to the report.

Ometu was arrested on two counts of assaulting a police officer. He was initially assigned to a court-appointed defense attorney who died in 2011. Court records show that another lawyer has since been appointed to him.

Rodriguez said she saw Ometu trotting down the street before he was questioned by officers, and the only crime he committed was “jogging while Black.”

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San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg tweeted Thursday that he is seeking “a full accounting” of the incident and that the situation needs to be approached “seriously because every resident deserves fair and equitable treatment from their city.”

Victor Ometu, Mathias Ometu’s father, also noted that he contacted his son’s friend, who paid a portion of Mathias Ometu’s bail, which was set at $20,000.

Mathias Ometu was in the process of being released Thursday, officials said.

“You can’t just arrest someone for anything,” Victor Ometu said. “I imagine he’s scared. He’s never been in trouble before.”