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University student, Honor Committee member Martese Johnson arrested

Johnson sustained head injury during arrest, governor calls for investigation into excessive use of force in arrest

<p>Black Dot, in an email circulated to University students and administrators, attached a photo of Johnson being held outside Trinity Irish Pub on the Corner.</p>

Black Dot, in an email circulated to University students and administrators, attached a photo of Johnson being held outside Trinity Irish Pub on the Corner.

This is a developing story, and will continue to be updated with the latest information available.

Martese Johnson, a third-year student in the College and a member of the Honor Committee and Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity, was arrested around 12:45 a.m. on Mar. 18 in front of Trinity Irish Pub on the Corner. At the request of University President Teresa Sullivan, a state investigation into the use of force in Johnson's arrest is now underway.

Johnson was charged with resisting arrest, obstructing justice without threats of force, and profane swearing or intoxication in public at 4:21 a.m. The arresting officer was Alcohol and Beverage Control special agent J. Miller.

Miller noted on the arrest record that Johnson “was very agitated and belligerent but [has] no previous criminal history.”

In the course of the arrest, Johnson sustained a head injury requiring 10 stitches.

Johnson was held at $1,500 bail with the specification he be released on an unsecured bond when sober. He was released at 6:01 a.m. Wednesday morning.

Johnson has since retained Richmond attorney Daniel Watkins of the firm Williams Mullen as his lawyer. 

An email from Black Dot, signed by “Concerned Black Students,” said the arrest was unprovoked as Johnson was not resisting questioning or arrest. The email included a photo of Johnson bleeding while being held outside Trinity.

“Outside of the doors of Trinity Irish Pub, a mass of University students bore witness to the officer’s animalistic, insensitive, and brute handling of Martese,” the email said. “He was left with his blood splattered on the pavement of University Avenue.”

The email asks for a “swift and thorough investigation on the state, local and University levels.”

Black Student Alliance President Joy Omenyi, a fourth-year College student, said the BSA supports Black Dot’s statement.

Black Dot will hold an event at 8 p.m. Wednesday evening in Clark Library open to all students. In a second email, Black Dot specified the event aims to allow students to “express...feelings and concerns about this and [their] own experiences.”

Vice President and Chief Student Affairs Officer Patricia Lampkin said Sullivan asked the governor’s office to investigate the incident this morning. McAuliffe responded to the request Wednesday afternoon.

"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," spokesperson Brian Coy said in a statement.

Sullivan has since emailed the University community addressing the incident, and said the administration is still seeking complete information.

“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," Sullivan said. "And we stand united in our belief that equal treatment and equal justice are among our fundamental rights under the law.”

Third-year College student Bryan Beaubrun, who said he witnessed the incident, said an ABC agent approached Johnson shortly after the bouncer at Trinity asked him to step aside after refusing to accept his ID.

“Martese was talking to the bouncer and there was some discrepancy about his ID,” Beaubrun said. “[An] ABC officer approaches Martese and grabs him by the elbow…and pulls him to the side.”

The arrest took place shortly thereafter, as Johnson was talking with a small group of ABC agents and Charlottesville police officers.

“It happened so quickly,” Beaubrun said. “Out of nowhere I saw the two officers wrestling Martese to the ground. I was shocked that it escalated that quickly. Eventually [he was] on the ground, they’re trying to put handcuffs on him and their knees were on his back.”

Both the Charlottesville Police Department and the University Police Department were on the scene, UPD Lieutenant Melissa Fielding said.

“UPD and CPD were called to assist with a physical disorder on University Avenue by a Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control Agent,” Fielding said in an email. “When UPD officers arrived on scene, the ABC Agent had an individual in custody and UPD assisted CPD in securing the scene.”

CPD Captain Gary Pleasants confirmed that Johnson was booked at the Charlottesville jail last night.

Johnson will appear in court on Mar. 26 at 10 a.m. and is charged with a class one misdemeanor and a class four misdemeanor. According to the Code of Virginia, a class one misdemeanor may carry a penalty of “confinement in jail for not more than twelve months and a fine of not more than $2,500, either or both,” while a class four misdemeanor carries a fine of no more than $250.

Virginia ABC issued a statement on the incident Wednesday afternoon.

"The uniformed ABC Agents observed and approached the individual after he was refused entry to a licensed establishment," the statement read. "A determination was made by the agents to further detain the individual based on their observations and further questioning. In the course of an arrest being made, the arrested individual sustained injuries. The individual received treatment for his injuries at a local hospital and was released."

The statement said Virginia ABC will comply with the state investigation.

"Virginia ABC will provide whatever information or assistance is requested by Virginia State Police," the statement read.

Warning: Viewers should be warned that this video contains disturbing images and explicit language.

Video credit: Bryan Beaubrun

Correction: This article previously stated incorrectly that Johnson was arrested at 3:18 a.m.