'I Didn't Do Anything, And I Got My Ass Kicked' -- The Unfolding Police Scandal Over Videotaped Student Beating
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A shocking YouTube video showing Prince George's County police beating an unarmed University of Maryland student has met with national outrage this week. The captured footage shows a student skipping in the street, where post-game crowds mill about celebrating their school's basketball win over the reviled Duke Blue Devils. The student, John “Jack” McKenna, is waving his arms, evidently getting a little too close to the police and their horses; two police officers in riot gear come charging at him with batons, throwing him up against a wall, and joined by a third, viciously beat him until he is left lying on the sidewalk.
Since the video's release, two police officers have been suspended and an FBI investigation is underway. Accountability appears to be at hand. "Everybody on the scene that night is under review right now," Prince George's County State's Attorney Glenn Ivey told reporters this week. Yet numerous other students claim they were beaten by police that night; they just don't have video footage to prove it. In McKenna’s case, it was just by chance that an electrical engineering major named Ben Winter decided to take his new camera with him when he went out to watch the inevitable mayhem following the University of Maryland's win over Duke on March 3.
"I saw a scuffle, and I immediately pointed my lens at it, but it wasn't until after I reviewed the footage … that the reality of what was going on sunk in, Winter told the UMD student newspaper, The Diamondback, this week. "I was incensed the first time that I really watched it."
It was only because of Winter's video that the charges against McKenna were dropped. (In addition to being savagely beaten, he was also arrested.) McKenna, who suffered a head wound that "required eight staples to close," according to CNN, as well as a "concussion, a badly swollen arm and bruises elsewhere on his body," faced charges of disorderly conduct and assault on a police officer -- a serious crime.
Without the video, even these injuries would not likely have raised eyebrows. Police brutality -- and the false charges that come with it -- almost always goes unpunished. The report filed by the arresting officers reveals a bald-faced lie told in order to justify the arrests. The Statement of Probable Cause, written by Officer Sean McAleavey, describes McKenna ("Arrested 1") and another student ("Arrested 2") as running through the street, screaming. "Due to their disorderly behavior, a crowd on the sidewalk began to form and become unruly," it reads.
As Officer Ardozini #246 and Officer Jones #177 from the Maryland National Capital Park Police mounted unit attempted to regain order, Arrested 1 and arrested 2 struck those officers and their horses causing minor injuries. Arrested 1 and Arrested 2 were both kicked by the horses and sustained minor injuries.
As the video shows, in fact, McKenna did not come close to striking the officers or their horses.
The second student whose charges have been dropped, "Arrested #2," otherwise known as Benjamin Donat (his name is spelled Domat in the original report), was also badly beaten. He does not appear in the video at all. He and McKenna do not know each other.
Sharon Weidenfeld, a private investigator working with the attorney representing both McKenna and Donat, describes the charging documents as "a total fabrication" and "part of a cover-up by the police department."
'I Didn't Do Anything, And I Got My Ass Kicked'
The incident is a sobering reminder that the word of the police can carry tremendous weight against that of an average person, unless there is overwhelming proof to refute it.