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Video of confrontation after U-Md. basketball game shows police beating

Washington Post editors

The Prince George's County prosecutors have dropped charges against two University of Maryland students they claimed struck mounted Park Police officers and their horses after a basketball game in March. A video shot by another student, meanwhile, shows police beating one of those students without apparent provocation.

On Monday, a county prosecutor dropped charges against John J. McKenna, 19. Charges against Benjamin C. Donat, also 19, were dropped on Friday. The videotape was released to some media outlets by the law firm representing the students Monday.

The incident occurred near the University’s College Park campus on March 3 after Maryland’s men’s basketball team defeated Duke. After the game, students took to the streets to celebrate. Twenty eight people were arrested or cited, sparking an intense debate between police and students over how and when it is appropriate to break up a group of revelers.

Segments of the incident with McKenna were captured on video by another student. The video, which lasts approximately one minute, consists of one continuous shot. It is not known what happened immediately before or after the video started.

The video does not show Donat interacting with police, even though police said in court documents that the two acted together.

The video shows about two dozen students milling about on Knox Road near Route 1. About a half-dozen of them are pointing their cellphone cameras at riot police who are gathered between the students and Route 1.

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, the video shows, are empty.

Two county police riot officers move toward McKenna, who backs up, the video shows. The officers rush in and strike McKenna with their batons, the video shows; McKenna is slammed against a wall and he crumples to the ground.

As McKenna is falling, 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.

Because they are wearing riot gear, the officers who hit McKenna are not immediately identifiable.

In the video, county police officers and officers on horseback from the Maryland-National Capital Park Police are seen nearby. They do not appear to intervene. The officers form a line and move toward the students who had been milling about, the video shows, and the students move back.

Maj. Andy Ellis, a county police spokesman, said police could not comment until they had viewed the video. Maryland-National Capital Park Police did not immediately return phone calls.

Charging documents sworn out by county police Officer Sean McAleavey alleged that McKenna and Donat were running and screaming in the middle of Route 1, prompting an unruly crowd to form.

As two officers on horseback from the Maryland-National Capital Park Police attempted to regain order, McKenna and Donat “struck those officers and their horses causing minor injuries,” McAleavey wrote.

McKenna and Donat “were both kicked by the horses and sustained minor injuries,” the charging document alleged. Donat, however, is not in the video and does not appear to be nearby. A private investigator hired by the teenagers’ lawyer said Donat was injured by police about a block away from where McKenna was beaten. The lawyer said the two do not know each other.

Christopher A. Griffiths, the lawyer, said that a prosecutor told him on Friday that charges were dropped against Donat because officers could not identify him. The charges against McKenna were dropped Monday without comment, Griffiths said.

-- Ruben Castaneda

By Washington Post editors  |  April 12, 2010; 4:17 PM ET
Categories:  Crime, Seen , Pr. George's , Ruben Castaneda  
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Seems to be a growing number of public servants who celebrate at the chance to bring physical harm on people who do not deserve it.

Posted by: Bigfoot_has_a_posse | April 12, 2010 5:04 PM | Report abuse

KA-CHING! open up those wallets, taxpayers. time to pay out a hefty civil penalty.

Posted by: millionea7 | April 12, 2010 5:06 PM | Report abuse

With Video proof of a unprevoked beating... I smell lawsuit! If Rodney King can break the law, be drunk and get his butt whooped and became a millionaire... these kieds and their parents are already being chirped at by a ambulance chaser that they have a good shot at $$$$$

Posted by: rvanags | April 12, 2010 5:11 PM | Report abuse

I saw this incident on video back in March when it first happened. Thank you for finally highlighting what actually happened that night -- students peacefully celebrating in the streets and then riot police coming to hurt and beat them for mostly no reason.

Posted by: magnuson | April 12, 2010 5:21 PM | Report abuse

money in the bank for that poor shlub. i wonder how much he'll sue PGC for?

Posted by: millionea7 | April 12, 2010 5:32 PM | Report abuse

Wow, PG cops beating an innocent person...shocker! How many time does this have to happen?

Posted by: rmt008 | April 12, 2010 5:36 PM | Report abuse

If the video shows the extent of what the kid did, then the police clearly acted without any provocation and should be hung out to dry. He was on a sidewalk skipping with excitement and he gets the crap beaten out of him. Then reports are fabricated that he hit the horses? The video doesn't lie.

Posted by: mjk62 | April 12, 2010 5:47 PM | Report abuse

Nothing to see here folks...move along...just another incident of ignorant jack-booted thugs losing control...move along.

Posted by: LouisianaVirginian | April 12, 2010 6:03 PM | Report abuse

That student was lucky that PG police did not execute him on the spot. What he should do right now is writing to PGC thanks for sparing his life and drop any lawsuit immediately. Do you think the whole purpose of having police present is to protect and restore order? Watch the video and draw your own conclusion. Imagine without this video, what is the proof of police brutality. I generally stay away when cops are around because they can kill or beat up for no reason and press false charge again you given many recent reported incidents.

Posted by: drkly | April 12, 2010 6:08 PM | Report abuse

Obviously, there is some context missing here, but the tape would appear to show an overuse of force in the situation even if the suspect had committed a crime. Nothing he was doing in the video posed an immediate risk.

Posted by: Left_of_the_Pyle | April 12, 2010 6:18 PM | Report abuse

The story conveniently leaves out the fact that after the student "skips" toward the police officers, he continues to approach them and it looks like he started taunting them.

Note to the public: If you see a line of police in riot gear, don't charge at them.

Posted by: diehardlib | April 12, 2010 6:29 PM | Report abuse

Officers caught lying again. No surprise here. Glad they dropped the charges ASAP, however, they never should have been filed in the first place. All the officers at the scene should lose their jobs over this--for not intervening. No excuse for beating him when he's not even resisting. Poor training.

Posted by: motownlivs | April 12, 2010 6:38 PM | Report abuse

This is the kind of stuff that police used to get away with before cameras became so prevalent. Hope these police officers lose their jobs and get sued into bankruptcy. The motto's supposed to be "Protect and serve" not "Beat the crap out of innocent people".

Posted by: madest | April 12, 2010 6:42 PM | Report abuse

watch the rooftop above the mounted cop. Did a kid on the rooftop do something / drop something on the horse to provoke a reaction? and McKenna was in the wrong place at the wrong time? Maybe

Posted by: think_hard | April 12, 2010 6:45 PM | Report abuse

The only crime scene here is one where police committed a crime against innocent young people. Forget about "there's more than one side to the story" and all that other crap. This youngster did not hit anyone or any horse. End of story.

Posted by: sexgun | April 12, 2010 7:01 PM | Report abuse

It appears that the student who suffered the beat down by officers of the PG County police, will have his education fully funded, student debt wiped out & paid & a 7figure ammount in his bank account. . thanks to the dog killers (police) of PeeGee County.

I hate to say this, but the young man in Largo, who got his beat down at the PaPa Johns, wont be so fortunate.

Posted by: Robbnitafl | April 12, 2010 7:14 PM | Report abuse

I have seen that video and it is disgusting. I am normally a really gung-ho supporter of the police. They have to put up with so much on a daily basis that they are entitled to a lot of slack.

But this was a brutal and pointless assault compounded by outrageous perjury. The officers involved in this should be in jail themselves and they should never be so much as a mall cop ever again.

Posted by: anon99 | April 12, 2010 7:20 PM | Report abuse

A few cops should be out of work by the end of the week, and two MD students should be millionaires by the end of the year.

This is serious malfeasance.

Posted by: clkgtrss | April 12, 2010 7:32 PM | Report abuse

you know the punk was saying nasty things to the cops. Shame someone was videotaping. he got the beatdown he deserved.

Posted by: popopo | April 12, 2010 7:53 PM | Report abuse

The post could tell McKenna had nothing in his hands? Damn that's good eye-site as the video is kinda blurry. Nor can he nor the caps can be heard. McKenna ran towards the the cops trying to clear the street. Not a wise move.

Posted by: SSTK34 | April 12, 2010 8:10 PM | Report abuse

The policemen involved should be arrested and charged with the unprovoked violence they inflicted on this student.They should be removed from duty permanently for those actions and the lies they swore to in false reports filed to cover up.

How can Prince George's County allow this kind of behavior from those that are sworn to protect us?

Posted by: BobSanderson | April 12, 2010 8:19 PM | Report abuse

Looks like the criminals have taken over our police departments too. The proof will be that the criminals that did the beating will not be charged and at best get a taxpayer paid vacation.

Posted by: metroman76 | April 12, 2010 8:35 PM | Report abuse

To say the police acted "without apparent provocation" is an overstatement. The degree of provocation was probably insufficient to justify the violence of the response; however, the teen appeared to be defying and taunting the mounted police officers, and he clearly moved closer to the horse than the reported 5 feet. Beating Duke is great, but it doesn't justify acting like a complete ass.

Posted by: mnm9897 | April 12, 2010 9:58 PM | Report abuse

wow. sue their asses. bet those cops weren't expecting to be on videotape when they testified that mckenna's injuries were sustained because he was kicked by a horse.

Posted by: sprite977 | April 12, 2010 10:05 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: Scruffy3 | April 12, 2010 10:07 PM | Report abuse

diehardlib wrote:
The story conveniently leaves out the fact that after the student "skips" toward the police officers, he continues to approach them and it looks like he started taunting them.

Note to the public: If you see a line of police in riot gear, don't charge at them

What the hell video did you just watch. At no time he act threatening to these officers and they should be punished. The guy backed up as they came towards him and they knocked him to the ground, beat him, and falsely charged him with assaulting them. They should be fired for filing a false report alone. At no time does this man touch any of these officers. As a cop they should have placed his arms behind his back cuffed him and arrested him if they felt he did something wrong.

Posted by: impartial1 | April 13, 2010 12:32 PM | Report abuse

Riot police should have large numbers painted on them, just like football players. If not, why not? What better thing for police than for all their meritorious actions be ascribable to them individually.

Posted by: johnnormansp | April 13, 2010 1:00 PM | Report abuse

It appears that your lack of investigative re-
porting is menisingly apparent. Police would readily perform transparently, if innocent of wrong doing. The naitivity you think exists in the general public is a mythe. Your reporting has no integrity. Law enforcement must defend themselves against criminal aggression. In the heat of emotion, in this case celebration, all involved must excercise restraint. Just tell the truth for both sides. Honesty is the best policy. Lack of integrity in reporting reduces your organization to irrelvancy. If you don't have the courage to tell the truth then don't report anything.

Posted by: mikemichon | April 13, 2010 1:04 PM | Report abuse

After watching the video of this attack by police officers, I have to wonder is the University going to punish the officers on horses also? Is the Prince Geogre county prosecutors going to prosecute the officers beating that innocent student? How about all the police just standing around watching this, aren't they also responisable for not acting to protect this innocent student from police brutality. This is a serious crime and then they lied about it, covered it up. I think people need to lose their jobs and some of them need to go to jail. This can not go unpunished and more than one officer was part of it. The video showed several dozen police officers there and they are all responsible.

Posted by: Bcdodd115 | April 13, 2010 1:40 PM | Report abuse

The two Police officers who initially rushed, tasered and beat the student have broken their oaths.

Those police are a disgrace to their uniforms and the very ideals of America. They have no place in public service. If they keep their jobs, it should be at a desk and not interacting with the populace as a whole.

The fact that they so easily fabricated the student attacking the mounted officer, and then blamed the horse on the student's injuries - this is criminal.

The fact that they didn't own up to their mistake, and tried to pin it on an innocent student, this is also criminal.

Consider that if the student was convicted of the crime they alleged, this would affect his future employability, his entire life. This is no small matter and I hope those officers are brought to account for their egregious actions.

Posted by: jhallbox | April 13, 2010 3:10 PM | Report abuse

I truly hope that they find and press charges against the responsible officers. We need to start holding people in power positions accountable for their inappropriate behavior; whether it be the bank officials and mortgage lenders for our current financial crisis or people that are supposed to protect and serve but instead abuse their power and then try to pin the blame on the victims. It's unbelievable that they have the nerve to do that, but it's only because others in their situation have gotten away with it or been slapped on the wrist if caught. This should not be tolerated.

Posted by: shadyrail | April 13, 2010 4:15 PM | Report abuse

Wow that is like so cool dude, I like it.


Posted by: clermontpc | April 13, 2010 4:33 PM | Report abuse

These officers should be terminated. Whoever wrote the report should be terminated. This young man should sue these officers, the city and its police department. This should not have happened. These were not mistakes. These men used poor judgment and this should never be tolerated. Decisions to behave this way simply don't happen. These men have a seething propensity for violence with an expectation of impunity.

Posted by: dkm77 | April 13, 2010 5:03 PM | Report abuse

So wait a second... these guys were charged with FELONYS on the testimony of police who said these people attacked them. Once the video comes out showing the cops lied, the charges are dropped. Why aren't these cops then being charged with filing a false police report?

The cops should be in jail over this. Not just assault and battery with a deadly weapon but also filing a false police report, but also enhancements for doing so while under the color of law.

These cops are thugs who are assaulting private citizens. They belong in jail, not on the street protecting people from exactly the actions they perpetrate.

Posted by: reali100 | April 13, 2010 5:37 PM | Report abuse

Technically speaking, it looks like the police abused their authority and violated that man's rights. Now speaking person-to-person, that student was a moron - he directly engaged already tense riot police by running at them and coming within close proximity to them during a potential brewing riot! If I were the cops, I would have dropped him like a sack of worms too.

Posted by: kharris0203 | April 13, 2010 6:45 PM | Report abuse

It's too bad there weren't any real police officers there who could have defended this poor kid from these thug, criminal, cops.

It's also too bad that instead of the dozen or so criminal cops getting fired, and arrested, for assaulting this kid, they will likely either get a paid vacation, or be found to have done everything "right".

Posted by: db551 | April 13, 2010 11:05 PM | Report abuse

Gosh, and just think, these little innocents were on their way to church. I suppose there is no audio which coincidentally of course seems to always be the case in these "can't we all just get along" videos.

Posted by: Bcamp55 | April 14, 2010 12:54 PM | Report abuse

This is absurd. Those cops who made the allegations against the UMD students deserve more than a wristslap for make false allegations. This is lying under oath, and defamation of character, not to mention assault and battery.

Posted by: snguyenm | April 14, 2010 2:32 PM | Report abuse

This is absurd. Those cops who made the allegations against the UMD students deserve more than a wristslap for make false allegations. This is lying under oath, and defamation of character, not to mention assault and battery. But will we see justice? I remain doubtful.

Posted by: snguyenm | April 14, 2010 2:33 PM | Report abuse

PG County cops have been abusing their power for years -- I'm happy someone finally caught it on tape. We need more for a county with such large crime issues. Huge reform is in order.

And, while they're at it, they should look into the corruption within College Park. Why can't anyone get a liquor license? Its a monopoly on the available bars causing over crowding and chaos. What other school has 5 (small) bars for 30,000 students?

Posted by: CFM2 | April 14, 2010 10:49 PM | Report abuse

Well we have been TRYING to tell you folks how they when the shoe is on your foot, you holler 'brutal police' - NOW you know....but noooo, when they beat OUR butt, you all holler that we are 'thugs' and 'we deserved it' - well, the chickens have come home to roost. Hurts, don't it? :-)

Black & Latino Men in Prince George's County

Posted by: wallacea | April 15, 2010 9:20 AM | Report abuse

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