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A San Diego judge heard new arguments Friday in the case of a fired La Mesa police officer seeking his job back, and said she will further review the matter before issuing her decision.

Superior Court Judge Kathleen Bacal hit the brakes on making a final ruling the day after she issued a tentative finding that evidence supports the termination of Matthew Dages.

Dages, 31, was fired in the summer of 2020 based on findings of an administrative investigation into the arrest of Amaurie Johnson, who ultimately was not charged with a crime.

The arrest on May 27, 2020, drew immediate attention after a bystander’s video was posted to social media. It showed Dages, who is White, grabbing and pushing Johnson, who is Black, onto a concrete bench.

Days later, the encounter prompted a protest that turned riotous.

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Dages was found to have lied in his police report about the encounter and was fired. A city appeals board upheld the firing. Dages sued, challenging the board’s findings.

Lawyers for the former officer have said his account in the report was honest based on his perspective at the time.

In court Friday, Dages attorney argued that the evidence did not support his firing. He said differences or clarifications Dages made in later statements about the encounter did not mean he had intentionally misrepresented what happened.

The attorney for the city argued that Dages made “shifting statements” as the case evolved, and had done so to justify his actions during the encounter. The appeals board unanimously found Dages had been dishonest.

Aside from being fired, Dages was charged in criminal court with lying in the report. In December, an El Cajon Superior Court jury acquitted him.

Bacal did not say when she would issue her final decision but indicated it would be soon.

Source: This post first appeared on sandiegouniontribune.com

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