Elderly protester shoved to ground by police in Buffalo files lawsuit after officers escape charges

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James Crump
·2 min read
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<p>Martin Gugino, a 75-year-old protester, lays on the ground after he was shoved by two Buffalo, New York, police officers during a protest against the death in Minneapolis police custody of George Floyd in Niagara Square in Buffalo, New York, on 4 June 2020</p> ((Mike Desmond - WBFO))

Martin Gugino, a 75-year-old protester, lays on the ground after he was shoved by two Buffalo, New York, police officers during a protest against the death in Minneapolis police custody of George Floyd in Niagara Square in Buffalo, New York, on 4 June 2020

((Mike Desmond - WBFO))

A 75-year-old man who was filmed being shoved to the ground by police in Buffalo, New York, during a Black Lives Matter protest last year, is suing the officers after they escaped criminal charges.

Martin Gugino suffered a fractured skull after he was pushed to the ground by police officers Robert McCabe and Aaron Torgalski, in the 4 June incident that was widely shared on social media.

Lawyers for Mr Gugino, a longtime social activist, have said that the 75-year-old was hospitalised until the end of June after being shoved to the ground by the officers.

Although charges were filed against the two officers by a prosecutor last year, a grand jury declined charges earlier this month, causing the case to be dismissed.

Earlier this week, Mr Gugino filed a lawsuit in the US District Court for the Western District of New York, seeking economic damages from the officers “in an amount sufficient to punish them and deter others from similar conduct.”

The suit names Mr McCabe and Mr Torgalski alongside another officer, John Losi, who was not charged in the incident.

Buffalo Police commissioner Byron Lockwood and Deputy Buffalo Police commissioner Joseph Gramaglia are also named, alongside mayor Byron Brown.

Mr Gugino, who was pictured lying on the ground next to a pool of blood from his head wound, was shoved to the ground shortly after 8pm on 4 June, after a curfew took effect amid the racial justice protest.

The demonstration was being held in Buffalo in the wake of the death of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man who died after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for a sustained period of time.

Floyd’s death sparked protests in all 50 US states, as demonstrations took place across the summer calling for an end to police brutality against African Americans.

Mr Gugino’s lawsuit states that shortly after the curfew began, the officers covering the protest “yelled out in chorus, ‘push him, push him’” when the 75-year-old approached a line of them.

The lawsuit alleges that officer Losi pushed Mr McCabe and Mr Torgalski towards Mr Gugino, before they shoved him, causing him to fall to the ground.

Mr Gugino’s lawyers have argued that the force used against him was unlawful and unnecessary, and that his right to peaceful assembly was violated.

They have also called the curfew “unconstitutional and draconian” and claimed that it was “selectively enforced against peaceful protesters.”

Following the grand jury’s decision to decline charges last month, the Buffalo Police Benevolent Association president, John Evans, defended the officers.

In a statement, Mr Evans wrote: “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.”

The Independent has contacted mayor Brown and the Buffalo Police Department for comment.

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