BLACK VOICES

Martese Johnson, Black Virginia Student Bloodied During Arrest, Files $3 Million Suit

The suit alleges false arrest, excessive use of force, civil rights violations and a failure to train or supervise the agents adequately.

A black University of Virginia student bloodied during an arrest caught on video filed a $3 million civil lawsuit on Tuesday against the state Alcoholic Beverage Control Department and three agents who arrested him.

The suit filed by the student, Martese Johnson, 21, in U.S. District Court in Charlottesville alleges false arrest, excessive use of force, civil rights violations and a failure to train or supervise the agents adequately. It seeks a jury trial.

"Agents of ABC have a history of aggressive, excessive and unjustified behavior in effectuating their duties,” the suit said.

The white agents arrested Johnson, a member of the school's honor committee, outside a Charlottesville bar in March. They believed he was using a fake ID, which the suit said was incorrect. Johnson has said race was a factor in the incident.

Johnson's arrest was widely seen in a video posted online. It sparked student protests at the school and fed a debate on U.S. police treatment of minorities.

A gash in Johnson's head required 10 stitches. His defense attorney has said that just before handcuffing him, ABC agents took Johnson to the ground, striking his head on the pavement.

Johnson was charged with obstruction of justice and public intoxication. A prosecutor said in June he would not pursue charges against Johnson or the agents: Jared Miller, Thomas Custer and John Cielakie.

The agents were returned to duty in August after a review showed they did not breach policy during the arrest.

The Virginia Attorney General's Office had no immediate comment on the suit. 

(Reporting by Gary Robertson; Editing by Ian Simpson and Eric Beech)

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