UVA Student Beaten Before Arrest By Alcohol Control Agents

By McCarton Ackerman 03/20/15

Martese Johnson had no prior criminal record and was a member of the school's honor committee.

Martese Johnson
Photo via

The mugshot of a bloody college student from the University of Virginia has sparked an investigation as to whether alcohol agents used excessive force during his arrest.

Martese Johnson, 20, was approached by Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) agents shortly after being denied entry from a University Avenue bar. He was eventually charged with public intoxication and obstruction of justice, but cell phone footage of the incident showed that an altercation took place. The two agents detaining Johnson show no regard for him, despite bystanders yelling “his head is bleeding!”

His attorney, Daniel Watkins, said that police “took Martese to the ground, striking his head on the pavement and causing him to bleed profusely from the gash on his head.” He received 10 stitches at a nearby hospital before being released. Johnson has yet to enter a plea on the charges against him.

In a message to students, University Vice President for Diversity and Equity Marcus L. Martin and Dean of African-American Affairs Maurice Apprey slammed the incident as “appalling” and something which “should not have occurred.” The governor has asked state police to begin an independent investigation into the incident. Meanwhile, Virginia ABC has restricted the two agents to administrative duties while the investigation takes place.

Johnson has no prior criminal record and currently holds several leadership positions at UVA. He spoke at a campus rally held on Wednesday in response to the incident, urging those in attendance to “respect each other, especially in times like this.”

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.