By Michael Winter, USA Today
The 20-year-old black University of Virginia student bloodied by alcohol control officers outside a bar last week was denied entry after a “polite and cordial” conversation because he named the wrong ZIP code for the address on the Illinois license he presented, the pub says.
The state police and Alcoholic Beverage Control officials are investigating the arrest of Martese Johnson, which triggered campus protests and allegations of racial profiling and police brutality.
Johnson “did not appear to be intoxicated in the least” and simply walked off after being turned away, the Trinity Irish Pub said in a statement released Saturday night.
It called reports that bar staff were “belligerent” toward Johnson or that he was belligerent to management “patently untrue.”
A Breathalyzer test showed Johnson was not intoxicated.
The statement also said the Charlottesville bar and restaurant “does not nor has it ever discriminated on the basis of race, color, religion, or national origin,” which is illegal.
Johnson, a third-year honors student who serves as leadership development chairman for the university’s Black Student Alliance, was charged with obstruction of justice without force and public intoxication or swearing. He needed 10 stitches to close a gash in his head.
In its version of events, the pub said co-owner Kevin Badke was at the door just after midnight Wednesday to monitor the St. Patrick’s Day celebrations and be sure underage drinkers did not enter. He said the ABC had alerted the bar beforehand that it would be watched closely because “they were Irish.”
Until 10 p.m., the pub admits patrons of all ages. After that, “under no circumstances do we allow anyone under the age of 21 to enter the establishment,” the statement said. Johnson had been in line to enter around 12:30 a.m., and Badke, who is from the south side of Chicago, was at the door helping check identifications.
Badke asked Johnson for his ZIP code, a key question used to catch fake IDs.
Johnson’s answer didn’t match the 2011 Illinois license he presented, and “probably realizing the reason for the error, stated that he had moved,” the statement said.
After a brief “cordial and respectful” conversation, Badke said he couldn’t let Johnson in and handed him back his ID.
“He was just disappointed he didn’t get in. He was just acting like a normal college kid,” Badke said in ainterview. “It was very cordial. I actually asked him what high school he went to.”
Moments after Johnson walked away, he was confronted by three uniformed ABC special agents. He is seen on a video down on the sidewalk, his face bloodied, steps from the Trinity entrance. Johnson can be heard yelling that he was a U.Va. student.
“How did this happen, you (bleeping) racists!” Johnson screams.
The ABC arrest report describes Johnson as “belligerent” and “very agitated.” The arresting officers have been reassigned to administrative duties during the investigation, which Gov. Terry McAuliffe is monitoring.
The incident went viral Wednesday afternoon on Twitter and other social media, with scores of postings to #MarteseJohnson and #BlackLivesMatter. Thursday, in a statement read by his attorney, Johnson said he was “shocked that my face was slammed into the brick pavement three blocks from where I attend school.”
“I trust that the scars on my face and head will heal but the trauma from what the ABC officers did will stay with me forever,” his statement said. “I still believe in our community. I know this community will support me during this time.”