The two Buffalo police officers seen in a viral video shoving an elderly man to the ground on Thursday have been criminally charged.
Officers Robert McCabe, 32, and Aaron Torgalski, 39, have been charged with second-degree assault, a class D felony, Erie County District Attorney John Flynn announced on Saturday. Both officers, who were suspended without pay on Friday, pleaded not guilty and were released on bail.
The officers will return to court on July 20.
Aaron Torgalski (left) and Robert McCabe (right)Image source: Erie County District Attorney
Flynn said the officers “clearly crossed the line” and that he “can’t turn a blind eye to that,” NBC News reported.
“If he was violating a curfew, if he was being disorderly, you turn him around, handcuff him, and take him away arrested. It’s as simple as that,” Flynn explained. “You don’t take a baton and shove it; along with the officer next to him using his right hand to shove him and knock him down, and crack his head, his skull on the concrete.”
A viral video showed the officers shove 75-year-old Martin Gugino to the ground during protests in Buffalo. As a result of the push, Gugino’s head violently hit the sidewalk, and seconds later, a pool of blood appeared underneath Gugino’s head. The incident occurred just after the city’s 8 p.m. curfew.
City officials originally said Gugino “tripped and fell,” but the video directly disputed those claims.
Still, Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown, a Democrat, seemingly excused the actions of the officers during an interview on Friday, WBEN-AM reported.
Brown described Gugino as “a key and major instigator” of the violence occurring in the city, though he did not provide evidence to back that claim.
“He was in the area after the curfew,” Brown said. “He was trying to spark up the crowd of people.”