Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown Says Pensioner Pushed To Ground By Police Was An ‘Agitator’
Byron Brown, the mayor of Buffalo, New York, has said the 75-year-old who was pushed to the ground by police was an ‘agitator’ who had been asked to leave the area multiple times.
Disturbing footage shared online showed the pensioner, identified as Martin Gugino, approaching police during a Black Lives Matter protest near Niagara Square.
Gugino didn’t appear to be threatening the police in any way, but officers were quick to put a stop to his approach by shoving him backwards, causing him to fall to the ground and crack his head on the pavement.
See the video of the incident below. Warning, graphic footage:
The officers responsible have been widely condemned online, but Brown has since appeared to defend their response.
In a recent interview on WBEN Radio, as per The Independent, the mayor claimed protests had led to violence and vandalism in the city and that Gugino was ‘a key and major instigator of people engaging in those activities.’
He referred to the pensioner as an ‘agitator’ who tried to ‘spark up the crowd of people’, and claimed police had asked him to leave ‘numerous’ times. Of course, even if Gugino was attempting to rile up the crowd, police should not have responded to him so violently.
If he was causing trouble they could have restrained him or had him escorted away, but instead they resorted to a violent act that ended up putting Gugino in hospital.
After being pushed, Gugino began to bleed from the ear. He was rushed to Erie County Medical Centre, where he remains in a stable but serious condition.
The two officers found to be responsible for the incident, Aron Torgalski and Robert McCabe, were suspended without pay and are now each facing charges of assault in the second degree, which carries a sentence of up to seven years in prison.
The pair attended their arraignment via video conference today, June 6, and both pleaded not guilty to the charges, Action News Jax reports.
Brown said the officers had been suspended rather than fired because he didn’t ‘want to jump ahead of the investigation’. He added: ‘It is very important for officers to know they are getting due process.’
Initial reports by police claimed Gugino ‘slipped’ during the protest, with Buffalo Police Benevolent Association President John Evans telling The Buffalo News he ‘fell backwards’.
Our position is these 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.
Despite the claims, the footage of the incident clearly shows officers pushing Gugino. Following their arraignment, McCabe and Torgalski were released without bail, with city judge Craig D. Hannah ordering the two officers to return to court on July 20.
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