Prosecutors: 2 Buffalo police officers charged with assault

A Buffalo police officer shoves a man
In this image from video provided by WBFO, a Buffalo police officer shoves a man who walked up to police on Thursday in Buffalo, N.Y.
Mike Desmond | WBFO via AP

Two police officers in Buffalo, N.Y., were charged with assault Saturday, prosecutors said, after a video showed them shoving a 75-year-old protester in recent demonstrations over the death of George Floyd.

Robert McCabe and Aaron Torgalski, who surrendered Saturday morning, pleaded not guilty to second-degree assault. They were released without bail.

At a news conference Saturday, District Attorney John Flynn said the officers “crossed a line.”

The officers had been suspended without pay Friday after journalists captured video of the confrontation the night before, near the end of protests.

The footage shows a man identified as Martin Gugino approaching a line of helmeted officers holding batons as they clear demonstrators from Niagara Square around the time of an 8 p.m. curfew.

Two officers push Gugino backward, and he hits his head on the pavement. Blood spills as officers walk past. One officer leans down to check on the injured man before another officer urges the colleague to keep walking.

The police commissioner suspended two police officers without pay Friday, Mayor Byron Brown said.

In response, 57 members of the Buffalo Police Department's emergency response team quit the unit “in disgust because of the treatment of two of their members, who were simply executing orders,” said John Evans, Police Benevolent Association president, according to WGRZ.

The resigning officers did not leave their jobs altogether.

Late Friday, the New York City Police Department announced the suspension of two of its officers, including one seen on video shoving a much smaller, female protester who was hurled back and hit her head on the pavement.

The Buffalo confrontation raised concerns about more possible flare-ups in a city where, earlier this week, two officers were injured by an SUV that plowed into a large group of officers who had begun swinging batons and using police dogs to enforce the curfew.

Things looked to have calmed somewhat Friday evening, as a large group of about 300 protesters marched uptown peacefully but after the city's 8 p.m. curfew, accompanied by two police cars and a police helicopter.

Brown said contingency plans are in place “ensure public safety." Additional state troopers will be in the city through the weekend to assist Buffalo police, according to a state police spokesman. And Brown said they are working with other agencies.

“I want people out in our community to know that people peacefully protesting will be protected,” Brown said at a news conference Friday.

Gugino was hospitalized and was “alert and oriented,” according to a Friday morning tweet by Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz.

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