Irish pub owner: Martese Johnson was ‘acting like a normal college kid’

Posted at 1:42 AM, Mar 23, 2015
and last updated 2015-03-23 08:49:01-04

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- The owner of the Irish pub where a third-year University of Virginia honor student was arrested by Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control agents is talking about the incident for the first time.

Trinity Irish Pub co-owner Kevin Badke told WCAV that when Martese Johnson got to the door, he asked him, "What's your zip code?"

When Johnson got the answer wrong, Badke said he just could not take the chance. But despite an ABC arrest report that described Johnson as "belligerent" and "highly agitated," Badke said that was not what he witnessed.

“I didn’t think he was intoxicated at all. It was very cordial. I actually asked him what high school he went to,” Badke said. “He was just disappointed he didn’t get in. He was just acting like a normal college kid."

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Johnson's attorney, Daniel Watkins, said that when the student answered the question about his zip code incorrectly, he was questioned by ABC agents about having a fake ID.

According to Watkins, that conversation led to Johnson being thrown to the ground and hitting his head hitting the pavement. "The officer’s knees pressed into his back, his face and skull bleeding and needing surgery,” Watkins added.

Johnson was arrested and charged with a misdemeanor charge of Obstruction of Justice without force and Public Intoxication or Profane Swearing.

Badke said he was at the door because ABC agents were staked out in front of his restaurant that night, watching them ID potential patrons because it was St. Patrick’s Day.

“They hold my business, my livelihood... So when the people that hold my business in the palm of their hand are outside, I’m going to make sure things are going well at the door."

Additionally, Badke disputed a report from a what he called a “disgruntled former employee,” who accused the restaurant of racial profiling.

Badke said what happened to Johnson in front of his restaurant was disturbing. He said that while he has seen agents make arrests before, he has never seen it get that "physical" before.

"No one deserves that and Mr. Johnson did not deserve that in the least. I don’t think anyone does,” he said.