Buffalo Officers Will Not Face Charges After Shoving Elderly Man in June Protest

A video shows officers shoving an older man during a Black Lives Matter demonstration in June 2020 in Buffalo, N.Y. Mike Desmond/WBFO via AP Photo Source: Still from video shows officers shoving an older man during a Black Lives Matter demonstration in June 2020 in Buffalo, N.Y. (Mike Desmond/WBFO via AP)

The two Buffalo police officers who were seen in a viral video pushing an elderly man to the ground during a black lives matter protest in June have been cleared of charges after a grand jury declined to indict them.

The two officers, Aaron Torgalski and Robert McCabe, made national headlines after a local reporter shot a video of an elderly gentleman being shoved to the ground by the two policemen.

The elderly gentleman, 75-year-old Martin Gugino, is a longtime activist who took part in the social justice peaceful protest last June. In a video captured by local reporters, a swarm of police officers dressed in riot gear can be seen marching on the street in the direction of Gugino and others. The police were there to enforce the 8:00 pm curfew the city had imposed which was set to take place 15 minutes before the incident happened

When Torgalski and McCabe came into the vicinity of Gugino, they shoved him on the chest without warning, causing him to fall backward onto the pavement. When Gugino fell to the ground, his head hit the concrete and a pool of blood started to accumulate immediately. Some police officers continued to march by while others stopped and stood around him. Gugino was rushed to the hospital where he spent roughly a month recovering from a fractured skull and brain injury.

Following the incident, Torgalski and McCabe were suspended from duty without pay and then were arrested soon after. Both pleaded not guilty and were released on bail.

Last Thursday, John Flynn, the Erie County District Attorney, announced that the grand jury would not indict the men. Both were facing a felony charge of second-degree assault. Following the announcement that the officers would not be charged, a very passionate Flynn shared the following in a statement,

"I've got 28 years as a naval officer, and I live and breathe every day by the core values: honor, courage, and commitment. And integrity happens to be a big thing with me.” Flynn adds, "I went into that grand jury, I put all relevant evidence into that grand jury. I put multiple witnesses in that grand jury. I put everything that was not cumulative into that grand jury. And you got my word on that."

Flynn has been under scrutiny early on in the investigations with worries from the public that the officers would not face charges for their actions.

Immediately after the incident, Flynn expressed his disgust at the behavior of the police officers. During a press conference, Flynn said, “We have a system in place here where society makes those decisions, not one person. And that’s the way it should be, and that’s the way it was.”

Because of secrecy rules, Flynn expressed that he could not share the details of the case with the public or what evidence was presented to the grand jury. However, he does say that that the prosecution made a comprehensive presentation.

The Buffalo Police Benevolent Association has maintained its support of both officers. President of the BPA John Evans shares, "We are grateful the Grand Jury decided not to charge. They saw there was no criminal intent. These officers have been put through hell. We look forward to their return to work."

The BPA adds, "As we have stated all along, Officers McCabe and Torgalski were simply following departmental procedures and the directives of their superiors to clear Niagara Square despite working under extremely challenging circumstances.”

Gugino and his attorney Kelly Zarcone shared with ABC News that the incident "deserved serious scrutiny." They explain, "Our position remains that the government's use of unnecessary physical force against peaceful protesters is patently wrong and un-American."

Both officers are still suspended with pay and will remain so until the department’s internal affairs division completes its investigation.

Nadia El-Yaouti
Nadia El-Yaouti
Nadia El-Yaouti is a postgraduate from James Madison University, where she studied English and Education. Residing in Central Virginia with her husband and two young daughters, she balances her workaholic tendencies with a passion for travel, exploring the world with her family.
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