Virginia’s governor is demanding that an independent investigation be conducted into the arrest of Black University of Virginia student Martese Johnson, the Chicago Tribune reports.
Johnson, who is a junior at UVA, was approached by Alcoholic Beverage Control agents outside of the Trinity Irish Pub early Wednesday morning. According to witness accounts, Johnson was “flung to the ground” by ABC agents, who proceeded to forcefully arrest him. The altercation left the honor student bloody and in need of 10 stitches. According to a statement released by UVA student group Concerned Black Students, Johnson did not resist questioning or arrest. Daniel P. Watkins, the attorney representing Johnson, said in a statement that police forced his client to the ground, “striking his head on the pavement and causing him to bleed profusely from the gash on his head.”
The incident ended with Johnson being taken into custody and charged with swearing/public intoxication and obstruction of justice without force. He was treated at a nearby hospital where he received his stitches. The 20-year-old’s arrest led to demonstrations involving nearly 1,000 students who gathered to protest on the UVA campus.
“Regardless of your personal opinions and the way you feel about subjects, please respect everyone here. We’re all part of one community. We deserve to respect each other especially in times like this,” said Johnson who appeared at the rally.
Johnson is majoring in Italian and Media studies. He has no criminal record. UVA’s Vice President for Diversity and Equity Marcus L. Martin and Dean of African-American Affairs Maurice Apprey expressed outrage over the situation in a joint statement posted to the school’s website. An excerpt from their statement reads:
“We are outraged by the brutality against a University of Virginia undergraduate student that occurred in the early hours Wednesday, March 18, 2015. This African American male student was injured on the Corner, after being stopped by Virginia Department of Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC) officers. His head was slammed into the hard pavement with excessive force. The student required medical evaluation and treatment at the UVA Hospital Emergency Department. This was wrong and should not have occurred. In the many years of our medical, professional and leadership roles at the University, we view the nature of this assault as highly unusual and appalling based on the information we have received.”
University President Teresa A. Sullivan also addressed Johnson’s arrest. According to Sullivan, Governor Terry McAuliffe ordered the independent probe into the incident at her request.
“I hate to see something bad happen to any of my students, whether it’s on the football field or something like this,” she told ABC News. “My heart went out to him. I thought how I would feel if I was his mother.”
The agents involved in Johnson’s arrest have been placed on administrative duties pending the outcome of the investigation.