U.Va. Students Grill Law Enforcement Officials About Bloody Arrest - NBC4 Washington

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U.Va. Students Grill Law Enforcement Officials About Bloody Arrest

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    Tensions are running high on the campus of the University of Virginia Friday. as students walked out on a meeting with police. They want more done after the bloody arrest of a third-year student. And now, for the first time, the man in charge of the agency behind the arrest is talking. News4's David Culver has more from Charlottesville. (Published Friday, March 20, 2015)

    University of Virginia students on Friday grilled law enforcement officials about an arrest that left a student injured early Wednesday morning -- and some were not satisfied with the answers, marching out in the middle of the event.

    During the student-led discussion, representatives of black student groups repeatedly chanted in unison, "Answer the question we asked," in response to officials' remarks. The students said they're angered by a lack of transparency in the aftermath of student Martese Johnson's arrest by state liquor agents outside a Charlottesville bar.

    Johnson, who is black, needed 10 stitches to close a gash on his head after the scuffle with officers.

    Friday's forum was arranged by the U.Va. Student Council. On stage were the chiefs of police for several local law enforcement agencies and Virginia Secretary of Public Safety Brian Moran, who oversees the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC).

    A contentious hour of questioning grew more and more tense, ending as dozens of students marching out of the university auditorium with fists raised, chanting "Black lives matter."

    Johnson, a third-year student, followed them out. He didn't speak at the event, but hugged some of his supporters.

    Johnson's arrest by ABC agents outside an Irish pub was captured on video, a bloody scene that quickly went viral and sparked protests.

    "We heard them, and I think the discussion is a difficult one, but I think it's an important one to have," Moran said. "And I was here to hear them, and share with them what I was capable of sharing and not to interfere with the investigation."

    "Discussion and dialog shouldn't end today," Moran said. "This is a beginning rather than an end."

    Other law enforcement officials who attended the forum said they also take the matter seriously.

    "This campus, this place has been through a lot in the past couple of months," said Charlottesville Police Chief Timothy Longo.

    Both Longo and Albemarle County Police Chief Steve Sellers attended the event. Their agencies were not behind Johnson's arrest, but they said they're hoping to mend a clearly weakened relationship between law enforcement and U.Va. students, and "...[a]sk, as we move forward, 'What could have been done differently?'" Longo said.

    "Even my own officers ask, 'Well... why are you going?'" Sellers said. "'You know, we weren't involved in that.' Well, yes, [but] we're all painted with the same broad brush. All of us."

    The students who gathered said they were also angry with their own student council, which they say left them out of the planning for the discussion.