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2 officers indicted in beating of Maryland college student

UPPER MARLBORO — Two police officers were indicted Tuesday in the beating of a University of Maryland student during a rowdy celebration that was caught on video after the school’s basketball win over Duke last year, prosecutors said.

Prince George’s County Officers Reginald Baker and James Harrison, both of the department’s special operations division, were indicted on charges of first- and second-degree assault and misconduct in office, said County State’s Attorney Angela Alsobrooks.

An image made from a March 3, 2010, videotape taken by a student from a dorm room window and provided by Roberts and Wood Law Firm shows Prince George's County police allegedly beating University of Maryland student John McKenna in College Park, Md. (AP Photo/Roberts and Wood Law Firm)

Police arrested more than two dozen students who took to the streets to celebrate Maryland’s 79-72 win over Duke on March 3, 2010. A video, taken from a dorm room window, later surfaced showing officers in riot gear beating student John McKenna with batons. Charges were later dropped against many of those arrested that night, including McKenna.

The video shows McKenna half-dancing, half-jogging down the sidewalk in celebration. He stops when he is cornered by two officers on horseback. Then, three officers in riot gear approach McKenna, and he is slammed into a wall and struck repeatedly with batons. McKenna suffered a concussion, cuts and other injuries, his attorney has said.

Harrison and Baker were placed on administrative leave soon after the beating. The names of their attorneys were not immediately known, and Vince Canales, the leader of the county police officers’ union, said he had no immediate comment.

Alsobrooks said the decision to charge the officers was not made lightly.

“But when there is evidence of potential wrongdoing by a police officer, it would never be appropriate for me to look the other way,” she said in a statement. “If I did so, the residents of Prince George’s County would be right to question my ability to be fair and impartial no matter the type of job or the standing a suspect or defendant may have in our community.”

Terrell Roberts III, a lawyer representing McKenna, said his client was gratified by the indictments and hoped the officers would be held accountable. Alsobrooks said the investigation was continuing, and Roberts said he hoped to see charges against additional officers.

“We feel that there are other individuals that are culpable and potentially chargeable, but I have no control over that,” Roberts said.

He said McKenna was still contemplating a lawsuit, but had not yet filed one.

FBI agents had interviewed dozens of county police officers last year, and the Justice Department had said its Civil Rights Division was investigating. It was not immediately clear why the charges were brought by the State’s Attorney’s office instead of by the federal government, though an FBI spokesman in Maryland, Rich Wolf, said the FBI had always been assisting with the investigation but had never taken it over.

The status of the federal investigation was not immediately clear Tuesday night.

County Police Chief Mark Magaw said in a statement that the department was “committed to constitutional, professional and ethical policing” and to maintaining the community’s trust, but he did not address the specific allegations.

To prevent a similar riot after this year’s Maryland-Duke game in College Park, police added extra officers, and the university publicly encouraged students to avoid profanity and to show good sportsmanship. No major disturbances were reported.