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Sergeant suspended in College Park beating

In a widening investigation, Prince George's County Police have suspended a sergeant who was at the scene of a beating last month of an unarmed University of Maryland student as crowds took to the streets celebrating a basketball victory. The beating was caught on video and surfaced publicly Monday.

In response to questions from The Washington Post, police spokesman Maj. Andy Ellis confirmed the supervisor’s suspension, which occurred Tuesday night. Action against the sergeant follows an earlier suspension of the officer who had filed charging documents about the incident. The sworn charging documents made no mention of the beating and wrongly said two students had assaulted police on horseback who were controlling the throngs near the College Park campus on March 3.

The FBI and state’s attorney’s office in Prince George’s both are investigating police conduct in the incident in which video shows two officers in riot gear rushing John J. McKenna, 21, and pinning him against a wall before repeatedly hitting him with batons. As McKenna crumples to the ground in the video, a third officer is shown hitting McKenna in the legs and torso with a baton.

Neither of the two officers suspended so far were directly involved in the beating, Ellis said Wednesday, adding that the department “is closer to identifying the officers who wielded the batons and we may have that as early as today.”
The sergeant's suspension comes a day after Police Chief Roberto L. Hylton said officers who witnessed the incident had “a duty” to intervene or at least report the use of force.

The video shot by another student was released Monday by an attorney for McKenna, who originally was charged with felonies for allegedly attacking officers and their mounts. Those charges were dropped without comment just before the video surfaced.

Ellis said the officer who wrote the charging documents “also was not directly at the scene” but had been working as a processing officer writing up accounts provided to him by the officers making arrests. Who provided the account in the charging documents “is part of the investigation,” Ellis said.

The documents allege that McKenna and Benjamin C. Donat,19, were running and screaming in the middle of Route 1, prompting an unruly crowd to form. Donat is not shown in the video. Charges against Donat, also a University of Maryland student, were dropped Friday.The video does not show McKenna making any aggressive move toward the mounted officers.

In all, 28 students were arrested or cited March 3 after a Maryland basketball victory over Duke, sparking a debate between police and students over how and when to break up groups of revelers.
-- Mary Pat Flaherty and Ruben Castaneda

By Mary Pat Flaherty  |  April 14, 2010; 2:47 PM ET
Categories:  Maryland , Ruben Castaneda  
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PG County police have been beating people for years, especially blacks and hispanics, but it takes a white kid from Maryland University to finally let the nation know what has been going on for decades.

Posted by: PublicEnemy1 | April 14, 2010 3:26 PM | Report abuse

PE1, I think the videotape had something to do with it in this case. If it makes you feel better some of the beating officers appear to be black.

Posted by: mendelsonmustgo | April 14, 2010 3:34 PM | Report abuse

okkkkkkkk, soooooooooooooo why is it taking so long to identify the guilty officers and publicly making that known?

I don't get it *scratches head*

Posted by: cbmuzik | April 14, 2010 3:40 PM | Report abuse

It's hard to have respect for cops when I see incidents like this. I'm sure most of them are hard working and honest, but the ones I've had experience with have invariably been... not exactly the cream of the crop, intellectually speaking.

And now they're submitting bald-faced lies as testimony. "Running and screaming in the middle of Route 1"? They're on Knox Ave, first of all, and they're hardly running a screaming. Just another example of how this country is turning into a police state. Thank the FSM for Youtube and personal video recorders for exposing this crap.

Posted by: financepirate | April 14, 2010 3:40 PM | Report abuse

This is normal in PG you end up with an assualt conviction a night in the pokey and a black eye. this is surelynothing new. But it is refreshing to see the cover up in the documents, bc that happened to my folks and there was no video to counteract... only the sworn lie of a testimony from the officers and my dismissed witness angle.....

Where are the normal commenters of "he should have complied" or "thats what he gets for going against authority" Blah blah blah


Posted by: joebananas1 | April 14, 2010 3:50 PM | Report abuse

It takes a certain type of fascist personality to voluntarily sign up to be a cop.

I hope the cops are sued in civil court and they have to declare bankruptcy.

Posted by: kenk3 | April 14, 2010 4:05 PM | Report abuse

How come the PG police cannot solve a crime involving their own officers which was committed in the presence of other officers who were witnesses yet they can fabricate a story involving Donat and McKenna within hours of the alleged occurrence?

Just tell the truth... Its not difficult...

There is only one reason for delay and that is cover up. Not necessarily on the Administration level but among the officers themselves.

Okay boys... Let's get the story straight before we go public and let's look at the tape again so that don't get caught in another lie.

Posted by: muddapucker | April 14, 2010 4:24 PM | Report abuse

The continued thuggish behavior of some PG cops reflects on how poorly trained they are. The chief is ultimately responsible, and the county council and executive should question how the chief is preparing PG police.

Posted by: tysonsara1 | April 14, 2010 4:28 PM | Report abuse

A previous poster hit the nail on the head. Sue them personally and bankrupt them. Make the suit large enough so their salary is garnished for decades. Hit these animals brutal economic pain.

Posted by: Trout1 | April 14, 2010 4:34 PM | Report abuse

Sound off to:
Prince George's County Police:
Roberto L. Hylton, Chief (301) 772-4740;

Michael E. Blow, Deputy Chief (301) 772-4750

Maj. Kevin A. Putnam, Commander (301) 731-4422; e-mail:

Mark A. Magaw, Deputy Chief (301) 772-4760; e-mail:

Prince George's County Police:
Roberto L. Hylton, Chief (301) 772-4740;

Michael E. Blow, Deputy Chief (301) 772-4750

Maj. Kevin A. Putnam, Commander (301) 731-4422; e-mail:

Mark A. Magaw, Deputy Chief (301) 772-4760; e-mail:

Maryland-National Capital Park Police

Lt. Mark J. Conto
Administrative Lieutenant, Field Operations
Maryland-National Capital Park Police
Prince George's County Division
Office (301)429-5640

FOP Lodge 30, Inc.-Greg Matthews
Office 301 780-3500 Cell 301 980-5113

1st Vice President-Mike Young
Office 301 780-3500 Cell 301 351-0116

2nd Vice President- E.J. Kinsey
Office 301 459-9088 Cell 301 642-9505

Secretary -Sarah Mikalauskas
Office 301 780-3500 Cell 240 315-7142

Treasurer -Eric Rojas
Office 301 459-9088 Cell 301 775-9183

State Trustee -Jim Richards
Office 301 780-3500 Cell 301 502-0987

Past President -Mark Nee
Cell 301 706-7076

C.O.P.S. Chair -Brian Smith
Office 301 949-8011 Cell 240 876-6760

Posted by: publicsafetyfirst | April 14, 2010 4:37 PM | Report abuse

First, I would like to say that I am glad the young man doesn't have brain damage; seeing how they weren't mindful of where the batons landed.
Secondly, I am glad that a video was present because once again they were trying to lie their way out of committing a crime.
Finally, I am glad that his grandfather is a former judge, so justice will prevail.
If such things happened to their family members, I wonder how would they feel.

Posted by: dgreen020762 | April 14, 2010 4:49 PM | Report abuse

So an officer, who was not at the scene, and who files a charging document under oath about the truthfulness of the statements in the document has no obligation to note who provided them with the information. I would think that the prosecutors and judges who acted on such frivolous document should also be under investigation. Or is this the standard operating procedure the legal system follows?

Posted by: crete | April 14, 2010 5:03 PM | Report abuse

I didnt know that the THUGS in PeeGee County were sworn police officers.

Posted by: Robbnitafl | April 14, 2010 5:23 PM | Report abuse

Perhaps officers could have shown some restraint, but we need to keep in mind the background of college park game riots, in a similar riot few years back public property was burned, store windows smashed and streets littered, one of the black metro bus drivers suffered permanent eye damage resulting from students throwing beer bottles. Utility poles were burned and light in area disrupted. All people in the area complained then that police did not do anything. Rights of many minorities are violated but just this time a rich kid is beaten after he and his gang is trashing property and disturbing the peace, mocking and dancing in the face of law enforcement and all hell breaks loose when he is handcuffed and kicked coulple of times. I wonder if those officers were not black would it cause a similar outrage.

Posted by: Jim110 | April 14, 2010 6:54 PM | Report abuse

The sergeant on the scene, yeah, I can see him being disciplined, since he's the one in charge on-site. He should have intervened & stopped that beating. The officer who prepared the false report - he wasn't there. Wasn't he only relying on what he was told happened? So why bust his chops at this point? Unless, perhaps he's not co-operating in the FBI investigation to say who gave him the details of what happened there. Both of these PGC officers should know something of who was involved. And I hope for their sakes they are co-operating.

And the offending PGC officers were wearing riot gear - which makes them not easily identifiable. I wonder why there's no number or any other visible identifying code on the outside of the riot gear? The mounted officers are M-NCPPC police. They very likely don't know who those PGC officers are either. So why post all that contact info to "sound off" to? M-NCPPC has already stated that no horses were injured, nor did any of the horses strike the students.

Posted by: PorthosAD | April 14, 2010 9:07 PM | Report abuse

Those aged 18-24 are also adults and not "kids" or "teens", meaning they shouldn't be called those words. Police brutality and falsification of charges is what happened against the young men outside the University of Maryland. So it's good that a seargant has been disciplined due to the trumped charges against the two arrested. Responsible police work doesn't involve police brutality and must never include false charges.

Posted by: LibertyForAll | April 14, 2010 9:44 PM | Report abuse

With authority comes responsibility.

The police officers responsible should have to pay for their crimes for the rest of their lives (with garnished wages and jail time).

Posted by: kenk3 | April 14, 2010 11:15 PM | Report abuse

Regardless of what the student who was beaten may or may not have said, the officer who filed a blatantly false police report sworn to be true, needs to be criminally prosecuted to the fullest extent permissible for willfully committing perjury. Thank the Lord there is videotape evidence, or this entire incident would just be one more case of abuse ignored by the PG county police, who have DECADES of similar police brutality incidents to answer for. It's long past time that the entire PG country police force is re-organized from the ground up. Abuse of authority by those who are legally empowered with the use of deadly force CANNOT BE TOLERATED!

Posted by: capvid | April 19, 2010 1:55 PM | Report abuse

I want to say "Kudos!" to all PG County residents who are outraged about the police brutality on their force and who have spoken up and demanded that it stop. I live in Howard County and I think our police department is as bad if not worse (and I speak as someone who had 4 members of my family in uniform on that force). Remember a year and a half ago the brutality that showed up on a traffic helicopter's video showing a bank robber who had had exited his car and laid down in the street and then was beaten by a Howard County cop even though he was clearly not resisting in any way? Not one county politician spoke out against it, and as soon as the county got recertified by CALEA, he was put back on the street. And the FBI didn't care either. I think it's outrageous, but it's going to be a cold day in hell before anyone addresses police brutality in Howard County. The education level and socioeconimic status mitigate against it.

Posted by: boyyourenosey | April 21, 2010 7:23 AM | Report abuse

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