The streets of College Park were awash in celebratory chaos on March 3, 2010 the night the University of Maryland men’s basketball team triumphed over rival Duke when police began arresting students they accused of attacking officers and inciting mayhem.
Then a video surfaced, and everything changed. Recorded by a bystander, it showed three police officers in riot gear race toward a young man as he approached two mounted officers. Two officers beat the man with batons as he crumpled to the ground.
The trial of two of the officers charged with the beating in the video is scheduled to start Monday in Prince George’s County Circuit Court. Prince George’s County police Officers Reginald Baker and James Harrison were each charged with first- and second-degree assault, as well as misconduct in office in connection with the beating of Maryland student John “Jack” McKenna III.
Mr. McKenna, now 24, was among the 33 people arrested during the chaos that night — 27 by county police and six by University of Maryland police, according to county prosecutors. He was charged with disorderly conduct and assault on a police officer, with officers writing in charging documents that he struck two mounted Maryland-National Capital Park Police officers and sustained his injuries when he was kicked by one of their horses. The charges were dropped a little more than a month later when the video that depicted the incident and contradicted the officers’ sworn statements surfaced.
County police asked prosecutors to drop charges against all 27 people that their officers arrested, said John Erzen, spokesman for the Prince George’s County State's Attorney's Office. Two people arrested by university police had their charges dropped. The remaining four pleaded guilty to charges stemming from incidents that night, Mr. Erzen said.
Federal investigators became involved in the investigation into the events of March 3, 2010, interviewing dozens of police officers who worked in the streets that night.
“We are still definitely involved in looking at that case,” FBI spokesman Special Agent Richard Wolf said Friday.
The FBI will be monitoring the trial, sending an agent to observe the proceedings, Mr. Wolf said. If at the end of the case Mr. McKenna still feels like he was wronged and wants to pursue a separate civil rights case, that could be explored, Mr. Wolf said.
“A lot of times with civil rights investigations, we look at whether justice was done as far as the official crime is concerned,” Mr. Wolf said. “It’s tough to say. We’re going to wait and see what comes of this.”
Police were on high alert the night of the 2010 incident. After big games over the past decade, unruly crowds have flooded Route 1 in College Park and caused considerable damage by setting fires and uprooting road signs. During the past two basketball seasons, the university and police have worked together to coordinate official events to channel students’ energy, such as with an on-campus bonfire. No other serious confrontations have been reported since then.
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Andrea Noble is a crime and public safety reporter for The Washington Times. She can be reached at email@example.com.
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