‘Bloody, but unbowed’
U.Va. student beaten by ABC agents; Gov. McAuliffe orders all agents retrained
4/2/2015, 12:15 a.m. | Updated on 4/2/2015, 12:15 a.m.
The photo of Martese Johnson lying dazed, bloodied and bruised on the pavement is almost iconic.
Blood streams like huge tears from the gash on his forehead and covers his face. His shirt is saturated with blood.
The gruesome image of the University of Virginia honors student was captured in photographs and by video only seconds after he was slammed to the ground by state Alcoholic Beverage Control agents outside a Charlottesville bar last week on St. Patrick’s Day.
The images, posted on the Internet, have gone viral — drawing fire from people across the nation as yet another example of unwarranted police brutality unleashed against a young black male.
This time, in Virginia, it’s closer to home.
Immediately, top Virginia officials voiced concern, including U.S. Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner, Virginia Attorney General Mark R. Herring and Brian J. Moran, the state’s secretary of public safety and homeland security.
Gov. Terry McAuliffe asked Secretary Moran to conduct an independent investigation of the incident with the Virginia State Police.
The governor followed that Wednesday with a formal, executive order requiring the retraining of all ABC agents in “use of force, cultural diversity, effective interaction with youth and young adults, and community policing” by Sept. 1.
His order also calls for an “expert review panel,” made up of local and campus law enforcement agencies and sheriff’s offices, to complete a review of the ABC and to make recommendations for additional changes by Nov. 1.
“Threats to student safety must be addressed, whether the sources of the danger is external or internal,” said university Rector George K. Martin in a statement issued Tuesday.
“We will obviously wait to see what the state investigation yields, but we do not want to pick up a newspaper ever again to see a picture of one of our students with a bloody face. That should not happen.”
University President Teresa Sullivan said in a statement, “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.”
The Virginia Legislative Black Caucus issued a statement saying its members were outraged by the incident.
“These actions by the ABC officers are appalling and totally unacceptable,” the Caucus stated. “We applaud the actions of President Teresa Sullivan and the University of Virginia Community for coming together to condemn the actions against this student.”
The Caucus also expressed appreciation to the governor for calling for the State Police investigation.
Mr. Johnson, a 20-year-old, third-year student from Chicago, had been denied entry to the Trinity Irish Pub located a few blocks from the U.Va. campus because of his age.
Kevin Badke, co-owner of the pub, said Mr. Johnson was polite and cordial after he was denied entry, when two Virginia ABC agents came up and grabbed him.
A witness said a startled Mr. Johnson initially tried to pull away from officers, who then wrestled him to the ground, knees pressed against his back.