Md. student beat by cops, officer suspended

COLLEGE PARK, Md. One Prince George's County police officer has been suspended and Police Chief Roberto Hylton said he expects more to follow when authorities identify the other officers involved. Hylton said he first saw the video on Monday.

"I'm very disappointed with what I saw," said Hylton, who was with nearly 40 officials from his command staff at a news conference. "I see on that tape ... a number of officers that are acting outside the color of our policies and directions."

Hylton said it's the only such problem so far that's come to the attention of police. The student did not file a complaint nor did the officers file a report on their use of force, he said. He asked for anyone with other footage or information to come forward. The suspended officer wasn't named.

The video, taken by a student from a dorm room window, shows a crowd in the street celebrating Maryland's 79-72 victory over Duke on March 3. A man in a brown jacket half-jogs, half-dances down the sidewalk. He stops when he sees a pair of officers on horseback in front of him and they corner him.

Suddenly, three officers in riot gear run toward him, slam him into a wall and beat him with batons. In the video, the beating appears unprovoked.

The man beaten is 21-year-old John McKenna, one of 28 people arrested that night near the College Park campus, according to McKenna's attorney, Christopher A. Griffiths, who released the video. Griffiths said a private investigator working for him got it from the student who shot it.

Griffiths said McKenna and another student he is representing, Benjamin Donat, both had concussions, cuts and other injuries and plan to file a lawsuit.

"They hope the officers will be held accountable for their actions," Griffiths said.

Police charged McKenna with second-degree assault of Officer John Ardozini and Donat with second-degree assault of Officer Glenn Jones. Both students also were charged with disturbing the peace.

Prosecutors dropped the charges before they saw the video due to a lack of evidence, said a spokesman for Prince George's County State's Attorney Glenn Ivey. Now they plan to present the investigation to a grand jury.

"Excessive force will not be tolerated," Ivey said in a statement.

Police charging documents chronicles a different story than in the video.

Donat and McKenna were running in the middle of a main street and caused a crowd to form on the sidewalk that became unruly. County police and officers with the Maryland National Capital Park Police "attempted to regain order."

The two students then struck those officers and their horses, causing minor injuries. The students also suffered minor injuries when the horses kicked them, the report said.

However, Hylton said based on what he's seen in the video, it did not appear the students did anything to provoke police.

Rhoel Beete, 20, a junior at the university, said while some students may have caused trouble, she's seen the tape and found the police response excessive.

"I think it was a little overboard," she said. "Was it really that necessary?"

Hylton called it an "isolated incident" that should not reflect on the entire force. "We are a very professional police department."

He also faulted students who threw snowballs and other items at police and created other disruptions.

"I'm also concerned that we continuously allow this type of behavior at the college campuses after an event that should be celebrated," he said.

Still, some students are questioning the officers' conduct. Blaire Brachfeld, a 21-year-old senior, said she was with other students that night and has watched the video.

"I respect the police and what they do to protect the city, but I think it was a big overreaction," she said. "Students were just trying to celebrate."

Copyright © 2021 KABC-TV. All Rights Reserved.