Officers caught beating student on video had blamed injuries on their horses
Three Maryland police officers were caught beating an unarmed student following post-basketball game revelry in a videotape released Monday.
The incident, recorded in part by another student Mar. 3 following a Maryland basketball victory, shows several officers in riot gear beating the student with batons. The officers deliver roughly a dozen blows as the student crumples to the ground.
John McKenna, 21, was subsequently charged with “felonies on suspicion of assaulting officers on horseback and their mounts,” but prosecutors dropped charges Monday as the video was released.
“The video shows the charging documents were nothing more than a cover, a fairy tale they made up to cover for the officers’ misconduct,” Christopher A. Griffiths, a lawyer for the student, told the Washington Post. “The video shows gratuitous violence against a defenseless individual.”
The Post notes that the beating “occurred March 3 near the university’s College Park campus after the Maryland men’s basketball team defeated Duke. After the game, students took to the streets to celebrate. Twenty-eight people were arrested or cited, sparking a debate between police and students over how and when it is appropriate to break up a group of revelers.”
The video shows McKenna on the sidewalk as he skips and throws his arms in the air. He stops about five feet from an officer on horseback, the video shows. In the video, McKenna’s arms appear to be in front of him, but he does not appear to touch the officer or the horse. His hands are empty.
McKenna backs up, then two county police riot officers rush toward him from the street, the video shows. The officers slam McKenna against a wall and beat him with their batons. McKenna crumples to the ground.
As McKenna falls, a third county police riot officer strikes his legs and torso with his baton. The video shows the officers striking an unresisting McKenna about the head, torso and legs — more than a dozen blows in all.
Other riot police officers on horseback who are captured on tape don’t intervene as the student is beaten to the ground.
In charging the student, police initially said McKenna and another student “provoked the beating” by attacking the mounted officers. The Post reports that the charging documents asserted that the horses, rather than the officers, had injured McKenna — a claim impossible to defend once the video of the incident went public.
An ABC News affiliate reported Tuesday that one of the officers has been suspended and several others could be fired.
“Some of these characters ought to go to jail,” McKenna’s family said in a statement to ABC. “Some ought to merely be booted off the force, and the remainder should be properly trained to discover that force is not always necessary, and brutality is always wrong.”
The Post has more details here.
This video is from The Washington Post, broadcast April 12, 2010.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This story has been altered from its original version. It was expanded to provide more detail about the incident.