The University of Virginia student whose bloody arrest earlier this week sparked a state police investigation and touched off protests around campus said he was "shocked that my face was slammed into the brick pavement just across the street from where I attend school," his attorney said in a brief statement Thursday.
The attorney for Martese Johnson, a 20-year-old student from Chicago, also said he plans to fight the charges of obstructing justice without force and public swearing.
"Martese has worked hard to ensure a bright future, and we intend to fight the criminal charges against him with the utmost vigor," said Johnson's attorney Daniel Watkins, noting that Johnson "has no criminal record, whatsoever."
Johnson was arrested early Wednesday morning just outside Trinity Irish Pub, less than a quarter mile from the University of Virginia's campus in Charlottesville. Video of the arrest shows blood dripping down Johnson's face while bystanders try to point out to Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control agents that the 20-year-old is injured. After images of Johnson's bloodied face went viral on social media, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe ordered the state police to open an inquiry into the arrest. Wednesday night, hundreds of students took to the streets in Charlottesville to protest Johnson's treatment at the hands of ABC agents, chanting slogans that have been heard at anti-police-brutality protests from Ferguson to New York City.
In an earlier statement, Watkins said Johnson suffered a gash on his head and received 10 stitches from the injury.
"As the officer held me down, one thought raced through my mind: How could this happen?" Johnson said in his statement.
Watkins also reiterated Johnson did not have a fake ID card. When one of the bar's employees asked Johnson for identification, Johnson gave an old address from Chicago that wasn't listed on the card, Watkins said. That's when the ABC officers stepped in and approached Johnson.
"At no point during the encounter ... did Martese present a fake ID," Watkins said.
In the video, Johnson is heard telling the uniformed ABC agents, "I go to UVA, I go to UVA," as he is pressed to the ground. "What the fuck! How did this happen, you fucking racists," Johnson says in the video.
One of the managers at Trinity declined comment about the incident to BuzzFeed News Thursday. A UVA official told CNN that Martese was not intoxicated during the incident.
At the five-minute press conference, held in Charlottesville's downtown mall area near Watkins' office, Johnson was flanked by his mother and younger brother from Chicago. Johnson stared straight ahead during the news conference, wearing a black suit with a red shirt and dark blue-and-red tie.
He didn't speak during the press conference, instead letting Watkins read his prepared statement.
Watkins said Johnson is on full scholarship at Virginia based on financial need, and a member of the school's Honor Committee.
"I trust that the scars on my face and head will soon heal," Johnson said in the statement. "But the trauma from what the ABC officers did yesterday will stay with me forever."
Here’s Johnson’s full statement:
"I stand here today as a member of the University of Virginia and Charlottesville communities.
"I'm shocked that my face was slammed into the brick pavement just across the street from where I attend school. Three officers then pinned me to the ground, pressing their knees into my back while blood flowed freely from the gash to my head. As the officer held me down, one thought raced through my mind: How could this happen?
"My head lay bloodied, but unbowed. I still believe in our community. I know this community will support me during this time. I trust that the scars on my face and head will soon heal. But the trauma from what the ABC officers did yesterday will stay with me forever. I believe we as a community are better than this. We can not allow the actions of a few officers ruin the community of trust we've worked so hard to build."
Joel Anderson is a senior national reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in San Francisco. His secure PGP fingerprint is 0FC3 6546 0874 8D17 BDA8 B237 E902 EE20 2D74 269
Contact Joel Anderson at email@example.com.
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