CHARLOTTESVILLE, Virginia (AP) — The governor of Virginia has called for an investigation into the rough arrest of a university student who appears in a photo with a bloody face as he is being held down by an officer.
About 1,000 students gathered at the University of Virginia campus Wednesday night to demand justice for Martese Johnson, whose lawyer said he needed 10 stitches in his head following the arrest.
The Alcoholic Beverage Control agent who made the arrest early Wednesday, listed in court records as J. Miller, said in the arrest report that Johnson “was very agitated and belligerent.”
Johnson was charged on two counts: obstruction of justice without force, and public swearing or intoxication, Charlottesville General District Court records show.
A statement from a group calling itself “Concerned Black Students,” however, claims the arrest was unprovoked and extreme.
“The brutish force used resulted in his head and bodily injuries,” the group said in a statement. “His treatment was unprovoked as he did not resist questioning or arrest.”
Johnson was on hand for Wednesday night’s rally, flanked by several students.
He spoke briefly and kept touching his face where he received stitches from the scuffle with police.
“I beg for you guys to please respect everyone here,” Johnson told the crowd. “We really are one community.”
His lawyer, Daniel P. Watkins, said Johnson is a 20-year-old, third-year student at UVA who is majoring in Italian and Media Studies, holds “numerous leadership positions” at the school, and has no criminal record.
Earlier Wednesday, UVA student Bryan Beaubrun said he was with Johnson and photographed the arrest.
Beaubrun said Johnson was trying to get into the Trinity Irish Pub when he was stopped by a bouncer. Then, an Alcoholic Beverage Control officer grabbed Johnson by the arm and pulled him away from the bar to speak with a group of police officers, Beaubrun said.
After about a minute, Beaubrun said, Johnson asked the ABC officer to let go of his arm and tried pulling away from the officer. At that point, another ABC officer grabbed Johnson from behind and the two ABC officers wrestled Johnson to the ground, Beaubrun said.
He said Johnson hit his head on the ground when he was tackled and that police acted with unnecessary force.
“He didn’t need to be tackled. He wasn’t being aggressive at all,” Beaubrun said.
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s office issued a statement asking state police to investigate “the use of force in this matter.” The ABC said the agents involved with the arrest are being restricted to administrative duties while the investigation is underway.
ABC agents in Charlottesville have been accused of heavy-handed actions in the past. In one case, the state of Virginia reached a $212,500 settlement last year with a UVA student who was arrested after her purchase of water was mistaken for beer.
Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.