Prosecutors were investigating Friday after a video captured police in Buffalo shoving a 75-year-old man who then fell and cracked his head, a confrontation that resulted in the suspension of two officers.
Video of Thursday night’s encounter, which happened near the conclusion of protests over the death of George Floyd in Minnesota, quickly sparked outrage.
It shows a man identified as Martin Gugino approaching a line of helmeted officers holding batons as they clear demonstrators from Niagara Square around the time of an 8 p.m. curfew.
Two officers push Gugino backward, and he hits his head on the pavement.
Blood spills as officers walk past. One officer leans down to check on the injured man before he is urged along by another officer.
Gugino and the officers all appear to be white, but details of their backgrounds were not released.
“Why? Why was that necessary? Where was the threat?” asked Gov. Andrew Cuomo at his daily briefing Friday.
The governor said he spoke to Gugino, who had been hospitalized in serious condition. “It’s just fundamentally offensive and frightening. How did we get to this place?"
Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz spoke to reporters on Friday and said the officers must be held responsible for their actions following an investigation by the District Attorney.
"Police and other law enforcement have a duty to serve and protect the public. We need them to be the guardians of the public, not warriors engaged in battle with the public," Poloncarz said.
The video immediately generated outrage, including among elected officials, in the wake of the death of Floyd - a black man who died after a white police officer pressed a knee on his neck for several minutes.
The police commissioner suspended two police officers without pay, said Mayor Byron Brown.
Gugino is a veteran peace activist involved with the Western New York Peace Center and Latin American Solidarity Committee, said Vicki Ross, the center’s executive director.
His Twitter timeline includes tweets and retweets supportive of progressive causes and critical of police. One tweet from Wednesday read: “The cops should not have clubs. And should not be in riot gear. The National Guard should arrest the police.”
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