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Two P.G. cops indicted in beating of U.Md. student

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Local,Maryland,Crime,Ben Giles
Incident occurred during riot after Duke basketball game

A grand jury indicted two Prince George's County police officers Tuesday for allegedly beating a University of Maryland student during riots following a men's basketball game in March 2010.

Special Operations Division officers Reginald Baker and James Harrison each were charged with first- and second-degree assault and misconduct while in office after they were allegedly caught on tape beating then-21-year-old student John J. McKenna, Prince George's County State's Attorney Angela Alsobrooks said Tuesday.

McKenna was assaulted on March 3, 2010, following a victory over then-fourth-ranked Duke. Thousands of students poured into the streets of College Park in an unruly celebration, effectively shutting down Route 1. Twenty-eight students were arrested, and officers from Prince George's County and the Maryland-National Capital Park Police wore riot gear in response to the mob of students.

"Charging any police officer with a crime is not a decision I take lightly. I also want to stress that the investigation into this matter continues," Alsobrooks said. "But when there is evidence of potential wrongdoing by a police officer, it would never be appropriate for me to look the other way."

Alsobrooks declined to comment further on the case.

The grainy footage, provided to media outlets in April 2010 by McKenna's attorneys, shows a man reported to be McKenna dancing and approaching a mounted police officer.

The video shows several police officers in black riot gear slamming the student against a wall. The student lands on the ground and two officers strike him repeatedly in the head and torso with their riot batons.

The video ends with an officer handcuffing the student.

The police report of the incident first said McKenna and another student, then-19-year-old Benjamin Donat, struck the officers and injured their horses.

Prosecutors dropped charges against McKenna and Donat shortly after the riots.

Baker and Harrison have been on paid administrative leave during the investigation.

McKenna's attorney, Terrell Roberts, said McKenna was gratified the indictment had arrived, but questioned why the investigation has taken so long. The FBI is still looking into the incident as well.

"In Prince George's County, the code of silence is alive and strong, so I'm sure the prosecutor had to go through a lot to get an indictment," Roberts said.

County Police Chief Mark Magaw, who headed the internal affairs unit that investigated the incident, said he respects the grand jury's decision and that the department is working with Alsobrooks on the case.

Officer Sean McAleavey, who was suspended in April 2010 after signing the police report making no mention of the attack, was not named in the indictment. Officials are still trying to determine if he knowingly signed a false police report, according to a law enforcement source.

bgiles@washingtonexaminer.com

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