Charges dropped against UVA student bloodied during arrest

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VIRGINIA — Prosecutors won’t pursue charges against a black University of Virginia student who was pinned to the ground and suffered a bloody head wound during his arrest.

The Commonwealth’s Attorney in Charlottesville, in a filing seeking a court order, said it wants to drop the misdemeanor case against Martese Johnson, who was arrested in the March 18 incident that made headlines across the country.

Officials also said evidence did not warrant criminal charges against law enforcement officers involved in the arrest.

“The Commonwealth reached a conclusion that the interest of justice and the long-term interest of the Charlottesville community are best served by using this case as an opportunity to engage ordinary citizens, law enforcement officers and public officials in constructive dialogue concerning police and citizen relationships in a diverse community,” a Thursday statement said.

Johnson, 20 at the time, was turned away from a bar during St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. He was under the legal drinking age. The incident involved uniformed alcohol control agents who encountered him.

The arrest warrant for Johnson described him as “agitated and belligerent.”

Video from the incident shows Johnson pinned to the ground, screaming: “I go to UVA! … You f****** racists! What the f***? How did this happen?” An officer can be heard telling the man to stop fighting.

According to the student’s attorney, Daniel Watkins, “Just before handcuffing him, police took Martese to the ground, striking his head on the pavement and causing him to bleed profusely from the gash on his head.”

Johnson needed 10 stitches to close the wound, Watkins said.

Johnson was charged with public intoxication and obstruction of justice, according to the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, which acknowledged he suffered injuries during his arrest. The agents remain on restricted administrative duty while they await results of a separate investigation, the agency said.

In a statement Thursday, Watkins said his client “can move forward to the next phase of his life.”

Johnson tweeted: “Appreciate everyone’s support throughout what has been a crazy time for me.”

Gov. Terry McAuliffe had called for an independent investigation by Virginia State Police to see whether the alcohol control agents used excessive force.

A court hearing in the case is scheduled for Friday.


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