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Police Accused of 'Brutalizing' Black UVA Student During St. Patrick’s Day Arrest

A University of Virginia student reportedly suffered a head injury that required 10 stitches after he was arrested for trying to use a fake ID.
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A University of Virginia (UVA) student was arrested early Wednesday by Virginia's Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control — the agency in charge of enforcing the state's alcohol laws — and reportedly suffered a head injury that left him bloodied and required 10 stitches.

The arrest record says Martese Johnson, an honor student at the college who has no previous criminal history, was intoxicated and belligerent. According to UVA's Cavalier Daily, Johnson was charged with "resisting arrest, obstructing justice without threats of force, and profane swearing or intoxication."


Students who witnessed the encounter said Johnson was "brutalized" by officers. A photo of the arrest showed him pinned on the ground and bleeding profusely.

I stand with Martese Johnson. There is no excuse for this. — UVAProblems (@UVAProbs)March 18, 2015

"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," a statement by UVA's Black Student Alliance said. "He was left with his blood splattered on the pavement of University Avenue."

Witnesses said Johnson was arrested after an argument with a bouncer who refused to accept his ID.

"It happened so quickly," Bryan Beaubrun, a student who witnessed the episode, told the Cavalier Daily. "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."

Students who witnessed the arrest tried to intervene and told police Johnson was bleeding —but were reportedly turned away and handcuffed.

"His treatment was unprovoked as he did not resist questioning or arrest," the BSA statement said. "Though he lay bleeding and crying out, officers continued to hold him to the pavement, pinning him down, twisting his arm, with knees to his back until he was handcuffed."

Johnson was released on bond when he sobered up and is due in court next week.


UVA's president asked Virginia's governor to open an independent investigation into the episode, and Gov. Terry McAuliffe promptly did, saying he is "concerned by the reports of this incident."

The university's black student association promised they would hold them to it.

"We demand there be a swift and thorough investigation on the state, local, and University levels," the statement read. "We have seen what happens at the University when we allow problems we have long known exist to be handled quietly, so we will not be quiet. We demand noise from each other, noise from professors, noise from administrators."

Marcus L. Martin, UVA's vice president for diversity and equity, and Maurice Apprey, the school's dean of African-American affairs, issued a statement saying they are "outraged by the brutality" against Johnson.

"This was wrong and should not have occurred," the statement said. "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."

The statement added that the incident "is now being handled at the highest level of the University and the State of Virginia."

A video shared online by the Cavalier Daily shows Johnson on the ground during the arrest.

"I go to UVA, you fucking racists," he can be heard saying as three officers cuff him.

Students plan to hold a rally in Charlottesville on Wednesday night.