|Tuesday, September 20, 2011 – John Patti and The Associated Press|
|Two police officers were indicted Tuesday in the beating of a University of Maryland student during a rowdy celebration that was caught on video after the school’s basketball win over Duke last year, prosecutors said.Prince George’s County Officers Reginald Baker and James Harrison, both of the department’s special operations division, were indicted on charges of first- and second-degree assault and misconduct in office, said County State’s Attorney Angela Alsobrooks.
Police arrested 28 students who were celebrating Maryland’s 79-72 win over Duke on March 3, 2010. A video, taken from a dorm room window, later surfaced showing officers in riot gear beating student John McKenna. Charges were later dropped against many of those arrested that night, including McKenna.
The video, taken from a dorm room window, shows McKenna half-dancing, half-jogging down the sidewalk. He stops when he is cornered by two officers on horseback. Then, three officers in riot gear slam McKenna into a wall and beat him with batons. McKenna suffered a concussion, cuts and other injuries, his attorney has said.
Harrison and Baker were placed on administrative leave soon after the beating. The names of their attorneys were not immediately known, and Vince Canales, the leader of the county police officers’ union, said he had no immediate comment.
Alsobrooks said the decision to charge the officers was not made lightly.
“But when there is evidence of potential wrongdoing by a police officer, it would never be appropriate for me to look the other way,” she said in a statement. “If I did so, the residents of Prince George’s County would be right to question my ability to be fair and impartial no matter the type of job or the standing a suspect or defendant may have in our community.”
Terrell Roberts III, a l lawyer representing McKenna, said his client was gratified by the indictments and hoped the officers would be held accountable. Alsobrooks said the investigation was continuing, and Roberts said he hoped to see more charges.
“We feel that there are other individuals that are culpable and potentially chargeable, but I have no control over that,” Roberts said.
He said McKenna was still contemplating a lawsuit, but had not yet filed one.
FBI agents had interviewed dozens of county police officers last year, and the Justice Department had said its Civil Rights Division was investigating. It was not immediately clear why the charges were brought by the State’s Attorney’s office instead of by the federal government, though an FBI spokesman in Maryland, Rich Wolf, said the FBI had always been assisting with the investigation but had never taken it over.
Statement from Prince George’s County Police Chief Mark Magaw
“The Prince George’s County Police Department respects today’s grand jury indictments and is committed to constitutional, professional and ethical policing. We continue to collaborate with Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Angela Alsobrooks on this incident and on other matters impacting public safety. Maintaining the trust of our community is the focus of my administration.”