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Oxford police officer placed on leave after using force to arrest a Miami student

Officers responded to a disturbance call for an assault of a staff member at Brick Street Bar on Nov. 18.
Officers responded to a disturbance call for an assault of a staff member at Brick Street Bar on Nov. 18.

An Oxford police officer is on administrative leave after a video circulated on social media showing him punching a Miami University football player outside Brick Street Bar.

The incident, which took place after 1 a.m. on Nov. 18, was captured by security footage outside Brick. Although the incident took place more than a month ago, the security footage was posted to a TikTok account on Dec. 23.

The video was posted by a woman who claims to be a relative of Devin Johnson, a redshirt first-year football player. In the video, Johnson and another male struggle, moving along the sidewalk of North Poplar Street. Different men jump in and out of the scene, with three people attempting to pull Johnson down. Two individuals hold Johnson to the ground before police officers arrive at the scene.

Johnson appears to try to sit up, but the officers push him back down with a hand on his face, twisting his body so that he is lying on his stomach. Johnson appears to keep moving, and the officer punches Johnson three times in the head or neck. Two more officers arrive, and Johnson appears to move his head and torso before the first officer stands up slightly and knees Johnson twice in his side. The two officers reposition their hold on him and place handcuffs on Johnson.

On Dec. 24 the Oxford Police Department (OPD) posted a statement on Facebook claiming the officers responded to a disturbance call for an assault of a staff member at Brick. The original examination of the incident did not include the footage from Brick’s camera, and as a result of additional evidence, OPD launched an investigation into the officer’s use of force and their policies. On Dec. 26, OPD published a second statement online confirming the officer, Matthew Blauvelt, has been placed on administrative leave during the investigation.

In an email to The Miami Student on Dec. 24, Brick Street management wrote that an individual attempted to enter through an exit-only door and pushed past a female staff member. When asked by a crowd manager to leave, the individual assaulted him, striking him in the face. The physical altercation continued outside and the crowd manager held the individual in place until police arrived.  

In OPD’s statement they claimed the officer that responded could not complete the arrest without the two other officers' assistance. OPD confirmed that Johnson was taken to the station where he did become cooperative, and he did not have any injuries that required medical attention. He was charged with criminal trespassing, underage intoxication, resisting arrest and assault. He was not taken to jail that night, but his case is pending in the Butler County Area Court with a pretrial hearing on Jan. 25.

OPD has not responded to requests for comment.

Oxford Mayor Bill Snavely said he found out about the incident through social media on Christmas Eve.

“We’re moving very quickly to have a full investigation that’s fair but also transparent,” Snavely said. “There’s going to be no hiding of any information.”

As the investigation moves forward, Snavely cautioned Oxford residents and Miami students to be careful and avoid spreading misinformation. One post from the Young Democratic Socialists of America (YDSA) student organization at Miami, for example, claimed a different officer had been involved in the incident.

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“I know that people, if they’re as outraged as I was, then they may want to take premature action,” Snavely said. “And my message is, ‘Hey, we take this seriously, and we’re moving as quickly as we can to be fair and to be transparent.’”

Dylan Halpin, a senior individualized studies major and employee at Brick, is co-president of YDSA, which is calling on OPD to fire the officer involved in the incident. He said the organization issued a correction in the caption of their Instagram post misidentifying the officer and later took the post down entirely.

As a Brick employee, Halpin said he’s aware of the locations of all the cameras. He was surprised by OPD’s initial statement that their initial investigation didn’t include the footage now circulating on social media, which he says is the only camera with a good angle of the incident.

“If Oxford PD used any other camera at Brick Street, we can only chalk it up to either incompetence or a cover-up,” Halpin said.

OPD did not specify in either of its statements so far what the original review of the incident included. The security camera footage comes from Brick Street, not the police.

Halpin confirmed that none of the Brick employees seen in the video holding Johnson down are bouncers. While the original TikTok post from the woman who states she is related to Johnson claims that one man seen clapping while Johnson is pinned down could be the owner of Brick, Will Wiesman, Halpin confirmed that is inaccurate.

Regardless of what led up to the altercation, Halpin said the violence shown in the video was not warranted and could be an example of possible racial violence.

“If Oxford Police Department doesn’t fire this man or come out with some bizarrely different story than we’ve all seen, it very much sets the precedent that punching a student is OK, and punching a student will not get an officer fired,” Halpin said. “In Oxford, Ohio, a town as small as that, a town as college as that, that is concerning, especially when possible racial violence is involved.”

Nyah Smith, Miami’s student body president, said because the incident happened off-campus, there isn’t much the university can do, however, she has been in communication with university administrators.

“Admin have all expressed that they’re very troubled by this video …” Smith said. “But (student body vice-president) Jules (Jefferson) and I have talked about and we’re going to continue to make sure that pressure is applied per se, and that we make sure that admin are held accountable along with the fact that admin understands how this has impacted the Black community on campus.”

In an online statement posted Dec. 24, Miami said as soon as they were made aware of the incident, they were in touch with the student to offer support.

Jefferson said she was concerned with the lack of accountability shown by Brick in their statement posted to social media on Dec. 26, and she is interested in how Brick will change as a result to ensure a safe environment for all students.

“What are the new training policies that will actually be up to code so that staff know how to handle situations correctly and ensure proper treatment involving customers,” Jefferson said.

Smith agreed and said she hopes to see actionable items from OPD moving forward as well, such as repercussions for the officer.

OPD has not released any timeline for how long the investigation could take. Anyone with additional video footage or those present at the incident are asked to contact