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
Mary Pat Flaherty
April 14, 2010; 2:47 PM ET
Categories: Maryland , Ruben Castaneda
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