Martese Johnson case brings McAuliffe to Charlottesville

Updated: Apr. 1, 2015 at 6:07 PM EDT
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Governor meeting with school officials at UVA (Source: Keith Woodson)
Governor meeting with school officials at UVA (Source: Keith Woodson)

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA (WWBT) - Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe on Wednesday made a special visit to Charlottesville to discuss the Martese Johnson case.

The UVA student's arrest by ABC agents sparked outrage after pictures showing Johnson bloodied and bruised quickly hit social media. McAuliffe said Wednesday that he's committed to finding out the truth about what happened that night.

McAuliffe says this is an issue that has his absolute attention, which is why when he got the call to come to visit Mt. Zion First African Baptist Church, he did not hesitate.

"My children have concerns about police. Some of them are afraid of police because of incidents like this," said Pastor Alvin Edwards.

McAuliffe is now assuring student and community leaders, the state will get to the bottom of it.

"I have zero tolerance. So I'm going to wait for the investigation to come back and hopefully they'll be back shortly," he said.

Instead of waiting for that to happen, he reminded Johnson's friends all ABC agents must receive sensitivity training by September in light of the arrest that forced Johnson to receive 10 stitches.

"What Charlottesville and UVA police do here should be in concert with ABC, not in contrast," McAuliffe added.

"These kind of things can and do happen anywhere and if you're not a part of changing it then you're complicit," said UVA student Aryn Frazier.

While Frazier says she doesn't doesn't know all of the circumstances that led to her classmate's arrest, she agrees there's a need for more training here.

"There isn't a very large black population at UVA, and so it's often assumed that black people on The Corner are from inside of the Charlottesville community and there are definitely class divisions that are existent," Frazier added.

When Johnson was arrested in the area referred to as "The Corner," cell phone video recorded him repeatedly yelling "I go to UVA, I go to UVA".

Charlottesville leaders hopeful for justice following McAuliffe's open dialogue.

"It says one, he's interested. Two, he cares. Three, he wants to make something happen positive so something good comes out of a bad situation," Edwards said.

"I've talked about building a new Virginia economy, I can't do it if Virginians are split," McAuliffe said.

The Governor's office says there is no deadline for results from state police's investigation of the incident and that they just want it to be thorough.

Virginia's Secretary of Public Safety is also forming a panel to study the role of ABC agents and their power to make arrests.

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