CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – An arrest that left a University of Virginia student bloodied has left a nation with questions. School officials expressed their support for the honor student days after third-year, 20-year-old student Martese Johnson was arrested by Virginia Alcohol Bureau Control agents.
State officials have called for patience. Students have called for answers. Johnson’s lawyer has called for justice.
And the Vice-President of U.Va., Dr. Marcus Martin, in an interview with Anderson Cooper, questioned tactics used by the uniformed Special Agents.
The agents were out in an area of Charlottesville called ‘the Corner,’ an area situated by campus where restaurants, boutiques and bars are frequented by students.
So far, on record, Johnson’s lawyer Daniel Watkins has said the arrest was made after midnight the night of St. Patrick’s Day. Johnson was standing on the sidewalk near Trinity Irish pub when an employee approached him and asked him for identification, said Watkins.
“At no time throughout the encounter did Martese present, as has been reported by some in the media, a fake ID,” said Watkins. “Nevertheless, Virginia ABC officers who were present on the scene questioned my client about being in possession of false identification.”
Johnson presented a valid Illinois state identification card issued in 2011, explained Watkins. When Martese was quizzed on the ZIP code he recited the current ZIP code at his mother’s Chicago city address, which is different from the Chicago city ZIP code on the identification card that was printed almost four years ago.
Dr. Martin reiterated that account to Anderson Cooper, and he also said Johnson “was apparently not intoxicated.”
“I don't have the results of it,” Martin said. "The breathalyzer test was done at the police station and it did not indicate that he was intoxicated.”
“The bystanders and credible witnesses that I spoke with indicated that he did not resist arrest,” Martin continued. “However, he was charged to my knowledge, on obstructing justice as well as being drunk in public, neither of which seems to have occurred.”
The charge in addition to Obstruction of Justice, without force has been listed by police as Public Swearing/And or Public Intoxication. No clarification has been made publically about a breathalyzer.
“Even if so [if he was intoxicated] no one should have been treated this way, pushed down brutally on the rock hard pavement, like he did, and sustained trauma,” Martins said. “He had a vertical laceration, forehead into scalp, which I saw, and I saw the stitches replaced -- 10 stitches.
“Ecchymosis places, bruising, redness and abrasions about his face that should not have happened,” Martin said of Johnson’s injuries.
“This should've been de-escalated,” he continued. “[Agents] could have taken him to the side…and just said okay let's have a conversation, rather than push him down to the pavement.”
University officials, local and state police, along with ABC officials have attempted to respond to an anxious student body as the investigation continues.
After days of prayer, protest and dialogue, a forum was held Friday at a theater on campus. It was intended as a student safe space where they could question Virginia’s most senior law enforcement officials.
Even though many expressed their frustrations, there were also many who thought it was a good first step. The mood was heated and sometimes tense. Students left the meeting chanting “Black Lives Matter.” The group says that their questions about Martese Johnson were not answered.
“It’s important for you to know that being a thorough investigation, it could take time, even weeks,” Secretary Brian Moran said. “We ask for your patience.”
“It’s insane, I was hoping to know some answers as to why we’re having this problems, and maybe to gain some information to fix it,” said Taylor Baugh.
“We want a thorough investigation, there is a lot of information out there that may not be accurate,” said Moran. “I don’t want people to jump to conclusions without the facts.”