Beaten College Student John McKenna Will Sue Police, Lawyer Says

John McKenna recovering from concussion; one officer already suspended.

April 13, 2010, 11:57 AM

April 14, 2010— -- The University of Maryland student whose beating was caught on video plans to sue the police officers he has accused of assaulting him, his lawyer said today.

John McKenna, 21, is still recovering from the physical injuries he received last month when he got caught up in a celebration of his school basketball team's win over Duke. Newly released video shows three Prince George's County police officers in riot gear ramming the student and then beating him with batons.

Left unconscious in the street, McKenna suffered a concussion and defensive-type bruises on his arms. He needed eight staples in his skull to close his head wound, his lawyer, Chris Griffiths, told "Good Morning America."

"He's a young man ... and he's recovering from the physical injuries," he said, "but obviously there was quite a bit of emotional distress he suffered in the incident."

One officer has been suspended and authorities have promised a thorough investigation into the incident on a College Park, Md., street, which was documented in a police report that Griffiths called a "cover-up." But Griffiths said he and his client want to make sure the officers involved are held accountable in civil court.

Griffiths said today that the police abuse continued even out of sight of the video camera. In the ambulance, he charged, McKenna was told not to make a fuss about his injuries. Griffiths said that was because injuries as severe as what the officers allegedly inflicted on the college student would have required more paperwork that would have contradicted the police report.

"On the way to the jail, officers removed the bandages from his head and said, 'Look, if you want to go home tonight, don't complain about your injuries.'"

Jail officials, he said, immediately saw the teen needed medical attention and got him to the hospital.

Photographs show a large gash on McKenna's skull, held together with multiple stitches. They also show sizable cuts and bruises on his body.

"It's clear the charging document is nothing more than a cover for the officers' misconduct," Griffiths said. "By charging him they are able to justify any injuries."

The sworn statement of charges by the officers said that McKenna himself "struck those officers and their horses, causing minor injuries."

The statement described 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.

Multiple Attacks on Campus After Game

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


. "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."

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