Bloody Arrest of Black U.Va. Student Prompts Investigation

Martese Johnson, 20, a junior at the University of Virginia, was arrested Tuesday and charged with public intoxication and obstruction of justice. (Photo: Twitter)
Martese Johnson, 20, a junior at the University of Virginia, was arrested Tuesday and charged with public intoxication and obstruction of justice.
(Photo: Twitter)

The governor of Virginia asked state police Tuesday to investigate what happened when a black third-year student at the University of Virginia was bloodied while being arrested by Alcoholic Beverage Control agents.

Martese Johnson, 20, a member of the university’s Honor Committee and Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity, was arrested around 12:45 a.m. Tuesday and charged with public intoxication and obstruction of justice, according to student newspaper The Cavalier Daily and the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.

Video and photos from the arrest show Johnson on the ground with his face and shirt covered in blood as agents hold him down. The incident went viral Tuesday afternoon with dozens of people writing #MarteseJohnson and #BlackLivesMatter on social media. Governor Terry McAuliffe issued a statement saying his office is keeping a close eye on the case.

“Governor McAuliffe is concerned by the reports of this incident and has asked the Secretary of Public Safety to initiate an independent Virginia State Police investigation into the use of force in this matter,” the statement said. “The governor’s office has been in contact with University of Virginia President Teresa Sullivan and local law enforcement and will continue to monitor this situation closely as the investigation proceeds.”

The special agents involved in Johnson’s arrest have been assigned to administrative duties while the investigation is underway, the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control said in a statement.

In a letter to students and staff, Sullivan said she asked McAuliffe to launch the independent investigation and is deeply concerned about what happened. She said university officials are trying to clarify the details of the incident quickly and asked anyone who may have witnessed the incident to contact the Virginia State Police.

“The safety and security of our students will always be my primary concern, and every member of our community should feel safe from the threat of bodily harm and other forms of violence,” Sullivan said in the letter. “Today, as U.Va. students, faculty, and staff who share a set of deeply held values, we stand unified in our commitment to seeking the truth about this incident. And we stand united in our belief that equal treatment and equal justice are among our fundamental rights under the law.”

A group of “concerned black students” issued their own statement saying the agents “brutalized” Johnson outside Trinity Irish Pub. Johnson needed 10 stitches from an injury the group said he sustained when officers “flung (him) to the ground” shortly after Johnson was denied entry into a bar.

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SOURCE: USA Today – Yamiche Alcindor

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