UVA Student Bloodied During Arrest By State Liquor Agents; Governor Orders Investigation

Video of the arrest shows blood dripping down the face of 20-year-old Martese Johnson, a student at the University of Virginia. WARNING: This story contains graphic images.

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Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe on Wednesday ordered an investigation into the arrest of a college student after disturbing footage emerged showing the bloodied, young black man being detained by Alcoholic Beverage Control enforcement agents.

Video of the arrest shows blood dripping down the face of a man identified as Martese Johnson, while some bystanders try to point out to Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control agents that the 20-year-old was injured.

“What are y’all doing?” one person is heard yelling to the agents. “Yo, his head is bleeding!”

Governor Terry McAuliffe on Wednesday asked for an independent investigation into the arrest, Brian Coy, spokesperson for the the governor, told BuzzFeed News.

The Virginia Department of Alcohol Beverage Control also told BuzzFeed News the agents involved in the arrest have been assigned administrative duties during the review.

“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 governor’s office said in a written statement.

The video of the arrest shows two agents holding Johnson to the ground, but does not show the moments that led up to the arrest.

Bryan Beaubrun / AP

Johnson suffered a gash on his head and received 10 stitches from the injury, his attorney Daniel Watkins said in a statement.

The arrest occurred early Wednesday morning, just outside Trinity Irish Pub, less than a quarter mile from the University of Virginia campus in Charlottesville.

“Just before handcuffing him, police took Martese to the ground, striking his head on the pavement,” the statement read. “I have spoken to him several times today, and he is absolutely devastated by yesterday’s events. Currently, we are preparing to investigate and defend this matter vigorously.”

Contrary to earlier reports, Watkins said, Martese was not accused of having a fake ID.

On Wednesday, Charlottesville Police released Johnson’s booking photo, showing the wound above his forehead.

Charlottesville Police Department

According to a written statement provided by Virginia ABC, agents approached Johnson when the 20-year-old student was not allowed into a bar.

“A determination was made by the agents to further detain the individual based on their observation and further questioning,” the statement provided to BuzzFeed News read. “In the course of an arrest being made, the arrested individual sustained injuries.”

“I go to UVA, I go to UVA,” Johnson can be heard yelling at the officers in the video. “What the fuck! How did this happen, you fucking racists.”

According to the Virginia ABC statement, Johnson was treated at a nearby hospital and released.

Court records show Johnson was arrested on two misdemeanor charges of obstructing justice without force, and public swearing and intoxication. He is expected to appear in court next week.

According to the student paper, The Cavalier Daily, Johnson is a third-year student at the university, a member of the Honor Committee, and a member of the Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity.

Facebook / Via Facebook: johnsonmartese

University of Virginia President Teresa Sullivan sent out a letter Wednesday to the school expressing concern about the arrest.

Sullivan said she reached out to local authorities, and the governor’s office, requesting an outside agency to review the use of force in Johnson’s arrest.

“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,” she 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.”

The university’s vice president for diversity and equity, and the dean of African-American Affairs also put out a statement condemning the use of force in the arrest.

“We are outraged by the brutality against a University of Virginia undergraduate student,” read the statement from Vice President Marcus L. Martin and Dean Maurice Apprey. “This was wrong and should not have occurred.”

“We view the nature of this assault as highly unusual and appalling based on the information we have received,” the statement read.

BuzzFeed News has attempted to reach out to Johnson, but has not received a response.

The university’s Black Student Alliance also called for a meeting Wednesday night asking for students to “express your feelings and concerns about this and your own experiences.”

Facebook: bsaatuva

The meeting, which was to take place in a classroom, was apparently moved to the university’s amphitheater.

Amphitheater full, and people keep coming. #JusticeForMartese #BlackLivesMatter #UVA

— Eva Latterner (@emlatterner)

This isn’t the first time an arrest of a university student by Virginia ABC agents has sparked controversy.

Last year, the state and seven agents with the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control were sued for $40 million by a University of Virginia student when she was stopped at gunpoint for underage possession of beer.

The beer turned out to be sparkling water.

According to documents from the lawsuit, Elizabeth Daly and a friend were approached by agents who were not in uniform, and told to get out of a car after buying water.

The agents tried to force the two out of the car, but according to the suit, the women were not sure the agents were law enforcement officials.

One of the agents drew his firearm while another, “jumped on the hood, landing on the driver’s side closest to the front quarter panel and striking his fist on the driver’s side front windshield.”

Daly and her friend called 9-1-1, according to the suit, and were stopped at an intersection as they headed toward a police station.

The case was settled last year for $212,500.

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Salvador Hernandez is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles.
Contact Salvador Hernandez at salvador.hernandez@buzzfeed.com.