Martese Johnson, an honor student at the University of Virginia, was left bloodied after a forceful arrest by Virginia Alcohol Beverage Control agents, reports Virginia paper The Cavalier Daily.
On Wednesday night, Johnson, 20, attempted to enter a local bar using a fake ID when he was allegedly confronted by a group of ABC officers. Witnesses told the Daily that officers pulled him aside, but when Johnson tried to pull away, they tackled him. According to a statement issued by UVA officials, officers slammed Johnson’s head into the pavement “with excessive force” during the arrest. Photos captured at the scene show officers restraining a bloodied Johnson by kneeling on his back. In a video, the college junior can be heard shouting, “I go to UVA! You f—–g racists. What the f—? How did this happen?”
Johnson was arrested and charged with resisting arrest, obstructing justice without threats of force and profane swearing or intoxication in public. He was released from custody two hours later, and had to receive 10 stitches in his head.
“It happened so quickly,” said witness Bryan Beaubrun to the Daily. “Out of nowhere, I saw the two officers wrestling Martese to the ground. I was shocked that it escalated that quickly. Eventually, [Martese was] on the ground, they’re trying to put handcuffs on him and their knees were on his back.”
As word of the confrontation spread, hundreds of UVA students began protesting. Last night, more than 300 demonstrators marched through campus and around town chanting, “Black lives matter.” Johnson was present at the rally.
“This university opened me up,” he said to the crowd. “You being here is the reason why I still believe in the community of trust even with a busted head standing here on this stage.”
In a statement released on Wednesday night, UVA President Teresa Sullivan requested that the state launch an investigation looking into the incident.
“Today, as UVA 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,” she wrote. “And we stand united in our belief that equal treatment and equal justice are among our fundamental rights under the law.”
Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe announced that the Secretary of Public Safety will be conducting an independent investigation.