Buffalo cops who pushed protestor, 75, to the ground leaving him hospitalized for a month with brain injury, cleared, back to work: ‘Level of force justified because Martin Gugino was non-compliant, ‘acting erratically’,’ during George Floyd protests – Police arbitrator
Buffalo police officers Aaron Torgalski and Robert McCabe were cleared of wrong doing by a grand jury on Feb 11, 2021 of criminal charges relating to the traumatic head injury of Martin Gugino
The men had been suspended after pushing protestor Martin Gugino to the ground leaving him hospitalized with a brain injury for a month because he was ‘acting erratically’ during George Floyd protests on June 4, 2021
Martin Gugino, 75, was pushed over by officers Torgalski and McCabe – He cracked his head on the concrete sidewalk, where he lay prone, bleeding from the skull and ears
He In a rights violation lawsuit filed in February, Gugino is claiming a third cop, Det John Losi told his assailants to push him
A Twitter user posted images of Det. Losi deterring officers from attending to he injured man
Gugino spent a month in hospital with a fractured skull and a brain injury
On Friday the cops who pushed him were cleared of violating the dept. use-of-force guidelines
Contrary video footage clearly shows Gugino posed no threat
Gugino is suing the city, the mayor and the police citing Torgalski and McCabe and Losi, for the injuries he sustained
Two Buffalo police officers who shoved an elderly protestor to the ground – cracking his skull – during racial injustice protests in June 2020 have been cleared of violating the department’s use-of-force guidelines.
75-year-old Martin Gugino, was shoved violently to the ground in front of Buffalo City Hall in New York on June 4, 2020, by police officers, despite posing no threat.
The activist was participating in protests organized by Black Lives Matter after the killing of George Floyd by police in Minnesota
The episode drew national attention when a news crew captured shocking video of the elderly man being pushed by officers Robert McCabe and Aaron Torgalski in downtown Buffalo, as crowd control officers in riot gear cleared demonstrators for an 8pm curfew.
The senior who was taking part in the protest following the May 2020 murder of George Floyd by police officers in Minneapolis, was violently shoved backward by the pair of officers, cracked his head on the concrete and could be seen bleeding out on the sidewalk.
As he lay, motionless and bleeding with a fractured skull, as a line of cops in riot gear nonchalantly walked past him.
A post by a Twitter user shows a cop, later identified as detective John M. Losi, preventing officers from attending to the injured man as blood oozed from his ears.
Video captured the incident where two police officers shoved an elderly man to the ground during a BLM protest in Buffalo, NY, on June 4, 2020
Gugino spent a month in hospital following the incident to recover from the fracture skull and an associated a brain injury.
But in a decision on Friday, arbitrator Jeffrey Selchick wrote: ‘Upon review, there is no evidence to sustain any claim that Respondents [police officers Torgalski and McCabe], had any other viable options other than to move Gugino out of the way of their forward movement.’
Selchick ruled that the level of force used by the officers was justified because Martin Gugino refused to comply with orders to leave the scene and was ‘acting erratically’ – A conclusion that is head scratching because of video evidence clearly showing that this particular protestor posed no threat and was attempting to speak to the cops.
‘The use of force employed by Respondents reflected no intent on their part to do more than to move Gugino away from them,’ the arbitrator, Jeffrey Selchick, declared.
McCabe and Torgalski were suspended without pay and arrested within days of the incident, but were put back on the city payroll 30 days after the incident. Last year a grand jury declined to indict them and charges were dropped.
In his ruling, Selchick said that Gugino had several verbal confrontations with other officers before he was knocked off his feet by McCabe and Torgalski.
The two officers “could have reasonably viewed Gugino as a suspect by virtue of his presence in Niagara Square past the announcement of the curfew, his failure to comply with the directive to move back, and his behavior as he deliberately walked in front of and stood close to McCabe and Torgalski,” Selchick wrote.
An attorney for Gugino, who has sued the city, told the Buffalo News that the ruling has no bearing on the lawsuit.
‘We are not aware of any case where this arbitrator has ruled against on-duty police officers, so his ruling here on behalf of the police was not only expected by us, but was certainly expected by the union and city who selected and paid him,’ Melissa Wischerath said.
Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia said in a statement he will reinstate the two officers to duty on Monday.
Gugino, from upstate New York, announced in February of last year he was suing the police, the city, and the mayor for the injuries he sustained after being shoved to the ground by police officers.
Attorneys for Gugino filed the lawsuit in federal court, claiming that the man’s constitutional rights to freedom of speech, peaceful assembly and due process, among others, were violated during the incident that took place outside Buffalo City Hall on June 4, 2020.
It also alleges forcible assault without warning by police officers.
The complaint names as defendants the City of Buffalo, Mayor Byron Brown, Police Commissioner Byron Lockwood, Deputy Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia, and police officers Robert McCabe, Aaron Torgalski, and John Losi.
The lawsuit alleges that the third officer named as a defendant in the complaint, Losi, was the one who instructed McCabe and Torgalski to shove him, as the rest of the police team ‘yelled out in chorus, “push him, push him.”
This second video from three police bodycams captures the moment Gugino hits the concrete pavement, after he’s shoved by police, in contrast to the first police report that Gugino tripped
‘If the roles were reversed, and Gugino pushed a BPD officer who then fractured his skull, he would have been immediately indicted, and for good reason,’ plaintiff’s attorney Richard Weisbeck said in a news release.
In the complaint, Gugino also argues that his rights to petition the government for redress of grievance, movement, unreasonable seizures and freedom from the unlawful use of force by government agents, were violated.
The lawsuit seeks a jury trial and unspecified monetary damages ‘in an amount sufficient to punish them and deter others from similar conduct.’
In October 2020, several months after the incident, Gugino said he had regained his health, but sustained permanent damage to his ear and walks with a cane.
‘Look, I’m up, got a cane, no problem. I’m good,’ he said.
‘But the city is not good.
‘These were not two especially bad officers. The whole system is wrong.
‘The curfew is wrong. Mayor 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.’
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.
Gugino’s lawsuit is ongoing.
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