Mathias Ometu, a Black jogger who was arrested after being misidentified by San Antonio police last August, has sued the city and police for civil rights violations.

Ometu, who was 33 at the time of his arrest, was jogging in north San Antonio on Aug. 25, 2020 when police officers stopped him. They were searching for another Black man whose wife had called them for a domestic violence incident. Ometu refused to provide his name, and was accused of kicking two police officers in the process of his arrest. He spent two days in jail and was released on bond. The Bexar County District Attorney later dropped the charges of assaulting a peace officer.

In Ometu’s lawsuit, filed in the 37th District Court exactly one year after he was arrested, he claims that police officers Richard Serna and Devin Day used excessive force, unlawful arrest, malicious prosecution, defamation, and violent physical assault. Those actions deprived Ometu of his constitutional and civil rights, the lawsuit argues.

Attorney Artessia House, who is representing Ometu, said Ometu was merely exercising that day without any idea that he “existed under a cloud of suspicion.”  

“On that day, he was arrested against his will,” she told the San Antonio Report. “He was not permitted to go home as he expected. He was not permitted to return to work, as he expected. Going through something so traumatizing will forever change you as a person. Because the problem with an unjust system is that you could be doing the right thing. And then there are circumstances that are against your interest.”

The lawsuit cites violations of the U.S. Constitution, including Ometu’s right against unreasonable seizures and his right to due process. In the lawsuit, House also argues that failure to properly screen or train officers led to Ometu’s wrongful arrest, and so the City of San Antonio and Police Chief William McManus are also liable for the alleged civil rights violations.

Both the city and McManus asked the court to dismiss the lawsuit. In a response filed with the court by City Attorney Andy Segovia, McManus defended the police department and the actions of its officers, writing that “the San Antonio Police Department has proper and constitutional policies and procedures for its police officers regarding the use of force and arrests.” That aligned with McManus’s words last August, when he reviewed the incident and found that officers “acted appropriately, within their legal authority, and in a professional manner during the interaction with Mr. Ometu.” The city referenced that review after the lawsuit was filed.

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

McManus also referred to Ometu’s refusal to provide his name to officers when asked, a point that House took issue with. He was on a jog that day and did not have his wallet with him, she said. 

“Without identification, would they have taken his word alone?” she asked.

Jackie Wang

Jackie Wang is the local government reporter at the San Antonio Report.