Virginia to investigate bloody arrest of black college student

This December 13, 2012 file photo shows the patch on the sleeve of a Virginia State Police officer.
This December 13, 2012 file photo shows the patch on the sleeve of a Virginia State Police officer.

Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe called Wednesday for an investigation into the arrest of a black college student that left him bleeding from the head.

In photos circulated on social media Martese Johnson, 20, vice chair of the University of Virginia's Honor Committee, was shown with a bloodied face after an arrest by state Alcoholic Beverage Control agents early Wednesday morning.

“Governor McAuliffe is concerned by the reports of this incident and has asked the Secretary of Public Safety to initiate an independent Virginia State Police investigation into the use of force in this matter," the Democratic governor's office said Wednesday.

Johnson's arrest by alcohol control agents, apparently after he was refused entrance into a pub, is the latest in a growing string of incidents in which African-American men have been killed or injured at the hands of police in the United States.

Last summer, a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teen in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri, touching off months of sometimes violent demonstrations. Last week, an African-American man was accused of shooting and wounding two policemen in a protest there.

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In a video posted on the University of Virginia student newspaper three apparently white officers are holding Johnson down. "His head is bleeding," a voice yells.

"I go to UVA," Johnson yells repeatedly. "I go to UVA, you fucking racists."

The state's Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control said it would cooperate with the investigation, and had restricted the agents involved to administrative duties while it is being conducted.

In a statement, the department confirmed that "the individual" had been approached and arrested after he was refused entrance into a business licensed to serve alcohol.

"In the course of an arrest being made, the arrested individual sustained injuries," the department said.

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Johnson is vice chair of the university's Honor Committee, which investigates alleged violations of the school's honor code prohibiting lying, cheating and stealing by students.

“We are outraged by the brutality against a University of Virginia undergraduate student," UVA vice president for diversity Marcus Martin and Dean of African-American affairs Maurice Apprey said in a statement. "His head was slammed into the hard pavement with excessive force.”

University President Teresa Sullivan asked McAuliffe to conduct an independent investigation into the arrest.

Johnson is set to appear March 26 in Charlottesville General District Court to face misdemeanor charges of obstruction of justice, public intoxication and swearing.

Editing by Sharon Bernstein and Eric Walsh