Gov. McAuliffe ‘concerned’ by reports ABC officers abused UVa. student Martese Johnson

Posted at 4:20 PM, Mar 18, 2015
and last updated 2015-03-19 09:27:14-04

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- University of Virginia student Martese Johnson was bloodied in a St. Patrick's Day incident outside Trinity Irish Pub in Charlottesville, according to a statement issued by the Black Student Alliance,  a non-university supervised student group. Johnson, who chairs the group's Leadership Development Committee, was "brutalized" by Virginia ABC officers outside the bar early Wednesday morning, according to the statement.

Uniformed state ABC special agents approached Johnson, a third-year student, after he was refused entry into the establishment.  Johnson, who has retained a lawyer from Richmond, issued a public statement that said he was not accused of possessing false identification. Johnson said that his head was struck on the pavement when police took him to the ground. He received ten stitches.

"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. He was left with his blood splattered on the pavement of University Avenue," the statement read. "After Martese was denied entry to the bar, he found himself suddenly flung to the ground. The brutish force used resulted in his head and bodily injuries. His treatment was unprovoked as he did not resist questioning or arrest. In confusion, with blood painting his face and creating a pool on the bricks of the corner, he yelled out for mercy. 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."

Students who pleaded with officers to let Johnson up off the ground were pushed away and handcuffed, the statement continued.

"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."

Martese Johnson was arrested early on March 18. PHOTO: Charlottesville Police

Martese Johnson was arrested early on March 18. PHOTO: Charlottesville Police

Governor Terry McAuliffe, "concerned by the reports of this incident," 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 has been in contact with University of Virginia President Teresa Sullivan and local law enforcement and will continue to monitor this situation closely as the investigation proceeds," said spokesperson Brian Coy.

Virginia ABC released a statement late Wednesday afternoon which said that uniformed ABC special agents arrested a 20-year-old male early on the morning of March 18.  ABC officers charged Johnson with Public Intoxication and Obstruction of Justice.

"The uniformed ABC Agents observed and approached the individual after he was refused entry to a licensed establishment," spokesperson Kathleen Shaw said in a statement. "A determination was made by the agents to further detain the individual based on their observations and further questioning."

The statement added that the arrested individual sustained injuries during the arrest, and received treatment for those injuries at a local hospital.

"Virginia ABC will provide whatever information or assistance is requested by Virginia State Police," Shaw said.

The special agents involved have been restricted to administrative duties during the course of the investigation.

ABC officers arrest UVa. student. PHOTO: YouTube screengrab

ABC officers arrest UVa. student. PHOTO: YouTube screengrab

President Sullivan urged those who witnessed the incident or who have direct knowledge of it to come forward and to contact the Virginia State Police at 804-674-2000, immediately.

"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," Sullivan wrote in a university email. "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.  And we stand united in our belief that equal treatment and equal justice are among our fundamental rights under the law."

A video posted by the Cavalier Daily shows the arrest of Johnson, and viewers should be warned that the video contains disturbing images and explicit language.

An arrest of a UVa. student by ABC agents in 2013 also caused controversy and national headlines. Student Elizabeth Daly was arrested by ABC agents after they mistakenly thought the bottled water she was buying was beer. The plain clothes officers surrounded her car, and one drew a gun.  Daly was arrested and charged with the assault of an officer when she panicked and drove a short distance away from the officers because she didn't know they were police until her friend called 911 to confirm the officer's identity. Daly sued the ABC for $40 million after spending the night in jail. The case was settled out of court and her charges dropped.

The 911 tapes from those tense moments are below.