Virginia Alcohol Agents Cleared Over Bloody Arrest Of UVA’s Martese Johnson




Three agents with the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) were cleared of any professional wrongdoing on Monday over the bloody arrest of a student on the University of Virginia (UVA) campus in March.

Martese Johnson, now 21, was wrestled to the ground by the liquor control agents on March 18 outside a Charlottesville bar as he bled profusely from a wound after he struck his head on the pavement.

Footage from the arrest, in which Johnson can be heard screaming “I go to UVA!” and “How did this happen, you fucking racists,” circulated widely, prompting Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe to order State Police to conduct an independent review of the actions of the ABC officers, who were placed on administrative duty.

“After thoroughly reviewing the incident and the report, Virginia ABC concluded that the agents did not violate agency policy and returned these special agents to active duty today,” the ABC announced Monday.

The department said it would not be making the report publicly available, saying Virginia law prohibits the disclosure of personnel files.

A department spokeswoman told BuzzFeed News the decision to reinstate the agents was made by “ABC leadership,” including its chief operating officer, board members, and Bureau of Law Enforcement representatives.

The department said the State Police report was also shared with Virginia’s Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security.

Martese Johnson and attorney Daniel Watkins speak to the media on March 26. Zach Gibson / Getty Images

In June, prosecutors declined to press any charges against Johnson, stating he “was not in fact committing a criminal offense” when he was approached by the ABC officers.

A representative for Johnson’s attorney, Daniel Watkins, told BuzzFeed News on Monday they had no comment on the agents returning to work.

The arrest of Johnson, an honor committee student, had raised questions about the role of the ABC, with state lawmakers and activists demanding the department’s authority be curtailed in the wake of the incident.

In a statement, the ABC said it had completed “mandated training” in June and July “in areas of use of force, cultural diversity, effective interaction with youth, and community policing.”

The arrest also prompted reflection among black UVA students, who told BuzzFeed News the incident also brought to the fore preexisting racial divides on campus.

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