Newly-released video showing police officers brutally beating a University of Maryland student is raising questions as to whether the officers lied in a sworn statement to cover up their actions. The video directly contradicts the officers' sworn statements after the events, and already, one officer has been stripped of his powers as the Prince George's County police chief promises a full investigation.
In the March 3 video, student John McKenna, 21, is seen skipping down a street, celebrating his school basketball team's win over Duke. He comes to a stop before two mounted police officers, and backs away from them. A second later, three officers in riot gear ram into the student and begin beating him with batons. The officers struck McKenna more than a dozen times, leaving him unconscious and bleeding in the street.
Photos show a large gash on McKenna's skull, held together with multiple stitches. They also show sizable cuts and bruises on his body.
"This is police brutality, pure and simple," said Chris Griffiths, McKenna's lawyer. "Clearly, the charging document is a lie. As you can see from the tape, there is not a single fact in that document which is true."
The sworn statement of charges by the officers says that McKenna himself "struck those officers and their horses, causing minor injuries." The statement describes McKenna's injuries as minor, caused when he was "kicked by the horses." It also claims that McKenna was inciting a crowd.
The charges against McKenna have since been dropped.
Other students on campus said the attack on McKenna wasn't the only time that police beat students the night of the basketball game. One student told WJLA-TV that he witnessed at least five attacks, and McKenna's lawyer has a theory explaining why.
"I think what you had was a situation where they were going to pick a few people out of the crowd and make examples of them in front of the students," said Griffiths. "They took the extra step of covering up their misconduct by falsely charging."
Prince George's County Police Chief Roberto Hylton has suspended one of the officers who's been identified on the tape and launched an investigation into the incident.
"I was outraged," said Hylton. "I was very disappointed at the conduct that I saw on the part of my officers on the video tape."
Hylton said that other officers involved in the beating will likely be fired, but McKenna's family thinks the punishment for some officers should be even tougher.
In a statement released to WJLA-TV, the family wrote, "Some of these characters ought to go to jail... some ought to be booted off the force, and the remainder should be properly trained to discover that force is not always necessary, and brutality is always wrong."