- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 7, 2003

University of Maryland police have arrested a Montgomery County man in connection with attacking the school mascot during the home football game Saturday night, then attacking a police officer.

“The blow literally split the [mascots] beak and broke open the head,” said Lt. Robert Mueck of the University of Maryland Department of Public Safety University Police.

Police have charged Gordon Harris, 18, of North Potomac, with the attack in the fourth quarter of the game against Clemson University at Byrd Stadium.

Officials said it will cost about $1,000 to repair the damage to the mascot. The student inside the costume was uninjured.

The university has a bronze statue of Testudo on campus. Rubbing its nose has been a good-luck tradition since 1933, when the diamondback turtle was adopted as the school’s official mascot.

Mr. Harris, who had no affiliation with the school, was arrested and charged with two counts of second-degree assault for punching the mascot and striking Lt. Mueck, the arresting officer.

Officials said Mr. Harris accused the mascot of provoking the incident by taking his hat. However, witnesses told police the mascot took the hat only after Mr. Harris repeatedly hit him over the head with it.

University police said Mr. Harris became “very irate” while talking with them, then grabbed Lt. Mueck’s hat.

“In essence, we ended up fighting,” Lt. Mueck said yesterday. “He just started going crazy.”

The struggle lasted about 30 seconds, and Lt. Mueck said he landed on the ground with Mr. Harris on top of him.

“At that point, my major concern was making sure he would not go for my gun,” Lt. Mueck said.

Three off-duty officers in the stands, a state trooper and several campus police officers helped subdue and handcuff Mr. Harris.

“The only way the institution can gain recourse or collect restitution is for Mr. Harris to be tried in … court,” said Maj. Cathy Atwell, a public information officer for the university.

Mr. Harris, who was unavailable for comment, also was charged with malicious destruction of property, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest, as reported by the Diamondback, the university’s student newspaper.

Officials said Mr. Harris was not intoxicated at the time of the incident but they suspected he was drinking earlier in the day.

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