On Aug. 25, Mathias Ometu prepared for his usual run around his neighborhood. The 33-year-old USAA insurance agent grabbed his phone, headphones, and headed out the door.
Five minutes into his jog, he saw a police vehicle slow down.
“I paid no mind to this because I had done nothing wrong,” he said.
“But being a conscious Black male, this raised a red flag.”
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Officers thought Ometu fit the description of a man they were seeking in connection with a domestic violence incident from earlier in the day, so they stopped him on Woodstone Drive and asked for his name. Ometu refused to tell them. Officers then handcuffed Ometu and attempted to put him in a police car, but he resisted and kicked two of the officers, according to the San Antonio Police Department Chief William McManus. Ometu was booked for assault of a peace officer, but Bexar County District Attorney Joe Gonzales dropped the charges Monday.
After spending two days in jail, Ometu was released on bond. His appointed attorney Adam Kobs paid his $20,000 bond, Ometu said. Although Ometu was thankful to be out, he said the experience of being arrested and held for days without an explanation of why shook him.
“On Tuesday, my life changed forever,” Ometu said, recounting the events for reporters at a news conference Wednesday morning.
Ometu was detained until Aug. 27 when he was allowed to shower and go home.
“I was under the impression that no one knew of my location,” he said. “I prepared myself to stay at that location in that jail cell until my court date.”
Attorney Artessia House, who is representing Ometu in any future civil rights litigation, decried the San Antonio Police Department’s actions and noted they would pursue any and all legal avenues open to them.
“I can say that I am absolutely disgusted by how Mr. Ometu was treated last week,” she said. “How many of you go jogging? [Do] you go outside of your house exercising without your ID?”
House and Ometu said they want to see reform in the hiring process and in training police officers in San Antonio.
“They need implicit and explicit bias training because clearly on that day [the police officers] were biased against Mr. Ometu,” House said.
House also pushed back against McManus’ Aug. 30 statement that said had Ometu given his name when officers asked him, the situation would have been resolved quickly.
“He told them he did nothing wrong,” she said. “I find it funny that Chief McManus says if he just gave his name that it would be over in two minutes. … Let me tell you what would have happened: he would have provided his name, he didn’t have his ID, and the officers still would have tried to detain him.”
House and Kobs both said Ometu was not legally obligated to provide his name to officers. According to Texas penal code, only people who are “lawfully arrested” can be charged with “failure to identify” if they do not give identifying information to officers who ask.
“I was punished for invoking my rights and that has to be addressed,” Ometu said. “I was treated unfairly and that has to be addressed. I was physically, emotionally, and mentally harmed and that has to be addressed. Multiple cops ignoring the rights of a Texas resident, that has to be addressed. I will not stop until all these issues are taken care of and until they are addressed.”
Though the assault charges were dropped, Ometu still has a pending misdemeanor charge of failure to identify, he said. Kobs and attorney Steven Wittekiend are representing Ometu in that matter. House said she’s not sure why the misdemeanor charge is still in place.
“It should have been [dropped],” she said. “We’re asking the same questions.”
Ometu said when police officers stopped him, he felt targeted.
“I felt like I became the victim, when there was another woman out there seeking justice and it took too long for her to get justice,” he said. “Instead, they continued to hold an innocent man.”