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

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 Mike Semel  |  April 12, 2010; 4:17 PM ET
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