Two Buffalo police officers were charged with second-degree assault for shoving a protesting pensioner to the ground during a Back Lives Matter protest in Niagara Square.
Robert McCabe, 32, and Aaron Torgalski, 39, were charged and released without bail on Saturday, June 6. The two were involved in the case of Martin Gugino, a 75-year-old man who was pushed and left motionless on the ground while bleeding from the ear.
Gugino is currently in a hospital in a serious but stable condition. More than 100 fellow officers and colleagues appeared outside Buffalo City Court to support the charged assailants, shortly after the mass resignation from Buffalo’s emergency response team.
The assault sparked a deafening fallout across the city, with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo described McCabe and Torgalski’s actions as ‘wholly unjustified and utterly disgraceful’.
According to the police union, the entire tactical unit comprised of 57 members resigned from the team allegedly in support of the suspended officers.
McCabe and Torgalski both pleaded not guilty. They could each face up to seven years in prison, with District Attorney John Flynn condemning their actions against Gugino.
“You take him away and arrest him. Simple as that. You don’t take a baton and shove him along with the officer next to him using his right hand, shoving him.”
The crowd who gathered outside the Buffalo court was mostly made up of off-duty officers, firefighters, and friends.
“It was tremendous, tremendous to see… I just think it’s a strong indication of the outrage, basically, over this travesty” John Evans said, President of the Buffalo Police Benevolent Association.
In an interview with The Buffalo News, Evans added that the officers were simply following orders from Deputy Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia to clear the square.
“It doesn’t specify clear the square of men, 50 and under or 15 to 40. They were simply doing their job. I don’t know how much contact was made. He did slip in my estimation. He fell backward.”
Atty. Tom Burton, one of the assailant’s lawyer, argues that prosecutors do not have grounds to bring felony charges.
“Nobody started out their day intending to hurt this fellow…none of this would have happened if he’d complied with the officers’ demands,” Burton said in The Guardian.
“I think what the mayor did and the district attorney did was right, and I applaud them for acting as quickly as they did.” Governor Cuomo said at a press briefing after the arraignment. “What we saw was horrendous and disgusting, and, I believe, illegal.”