UPPER MARLBORO, Md. (WUSA) -- Two police officers accused of beating University of Maryland student John McKenna after a basketball victory in 2010 were under orders to have zero tolerance for "agitators," defense lawyers said.
The trial of officers Reginald Baker and James Harrison for assault and misconduct in office began today. The incident, during a rowdy street celebration after Maryland beat Duke in March of 2010, was caught on tape.
McKenna as seen on tape is "...an aggressive agitator who is charging a police line in the midst of a riot," said defense attorney William Brennan. Brennan derisively called McKenna "Yipee Skippy."
Defense attorneys called the situation on the street a riot, which included fires and destruction of property. They said commanders gave officers orders to deploy shields, batons and horses to clear the streets and prevent mobs from forming around agitators.
They said McKenna charged at police with clenched fists and was "taken down" in an attempt to protect police horses and to force him to "show his hands", Brennan said.
Prosecutor Joe Ruddy called the incident a clear-cut case of police brutality.
"This case is about 3 things: power, trust and the law," Ruddy said. "These officers abused that power, broke that trust and violated the law."
Ruddy opened the case by showing video of McKenna skipping toward a police line, being slammed against a concrete wall with a shield and struck with batons while he was on the ground.
Defense lawyers said the baton strikes were intended to get McKenna to show his hands.
A student who witnessed the incident testified that McKenna was not leading a mob and was "fist pumping consistent with someone celebrating a game we just won."
McKenna, who suffered a severe head laceration and a concussion, was not treated for 8 hours while in police custody, Ruddy said.