A grand jury in New York has dismissed felony assault charges against two police officers in Buffalo who shoved a 75-year-old protester so hard he was left lying on the sidewalk with blood pouring from his ear.
John Flynn, the Erie County district attorney, said on Thursday that charges had been dropped Aaron Torgalski and Robert McCabe.
The two officers were seen shoving protester Martin Gugino, 75, on June 4, during a
Gugino suffered a fractured skull in the fall, and spent four weeks in hospital.
Martin Gugino, 75, was pushed to the floor in front of City Hall in Buffalo on June 4
The two officers shoved Gugino out of the way after he approached them during a protest
Officers walked past as the 75-year-old lay on the ground, visibly bleeding from his ear
Buffalo police initially said in a statement that a person ‘was injured when he tripped and fell,’ but following an outcry Captain Jeff Rinaldo later announced that an internal affairs investigation was opened.
Police Commissioner Byron Lockwood suspended the two officers, who were without pay for 30 days, as per their contract.
Flynn told a press conference on Thursday that he provided all relevant information and evidence to the grand jury, which ultimately decided not to prosecute.
‘The reality here is that no one is ever going to know, I’ll be honest the grand jury proceedings are secret, they’re sealed and no one is ever going to know what happened in that grand jury,’ he said.
‘So, you really only have my word that I didn’t sandbag anything.
‘I put all relevant information and evidence into that grand jury and I presented it all to that grand jury and they made a decision.’
Torgalski and McCabe are still suspended, pending an internal inquiry, WIVB reported, although they are now back on the pay roll.
Gugino, who suffered a fractured skull, said in October that he was fine, although he was left with permanent damage to his ear.
‘Look, I’m up, got a cane, no problem. I’m good,’ he said. ‘The city is not good.
‘These were not two especially bad officers. The whole system is wrong.
Aaron Torgalski (left) and Robert McCabe were cleared by a grand jury on Thursday
‘The curfew is wrong. Mayor [Byron] Brown needs to be taught what the First Amendment means. The chief of police, whatever training he gave these guys is not right.
‘You are allowed to protest on the sidewalk. Protest is the American way.’
Gugino was asked if he saw the video of the incident.
‘I didn’t see it until a few days later. I thought, ‘Wow. That’s not good,” he recalled.
He said there was no justification for what happened to him.
‘Fall down, hit your head, blood comes out of your ear, carted off unconscious – there’s no reason for that,’ he said.
Martin Gugino, 75, suffered a fractured skull when he was shoved by two police on June 4
John Evans, president of the Buffalo Police Benevolent Association, said they were pleased at the decision, and argued Torgalski and McCabe were simply following orders.
‘The Buffalo Police Benevolent Association is extremely pleased with today’s decision by a grand jury to dismiss charges against Buffalo Police Officers Robert McCabe and Aaron Torgalski,’ he said.
‘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.’