Charges against two police officers who were filmed shoving to the ground an elderly protester during a Black Lives Matter protest in Buffalo, New York have been dismissed, the county’s district attorney announced on Thursday.
Aaron Torgalski, 39, and Robert McCabe, 32, were charged with assault in the second degree for pushing Martin Gugino, 75, a longtime community activist, in June 2020. Erie County District Attorney John Flynn said he stood behind the decision to charge the officers, but blamed Gugino for breaking a curfew that was in place to quell protests against police brutality in the wake of the death of George Floyd last May.
“There was probable cause at that time to charge that offense, and I stand by that,” Flynn said during a news conference on Thursday. In an incident that was caught on video by a reporter, Gugino suffered a fractured skull when he fell to the ground after he was pushed.
“We as a society give police the authority to use force,” Flynn said, “the question in every police-involved matter comes down to whether or not the force crossed a line.” The two officers were part of a unit in tactical gear enforcing an 8pm curfew in the city.
Flynn said that “Mr Gugino committed a crime and broke the curfew, he had no business confronting police officers.” “All that had to be done was turn him around and arrest him. I still stand by he should not have been shoved. He should have been arrested. That didn’t happen.”
Flynn said the grand jury investigation took a long time to deliberate due to the pandemic. And after that, he had more pressing cases to attend to. The video speaks for itself,” Flynn said. “Society made the decision, not me.” Both officers, who had pleaded not guilty to the charges, were placed on administrative leave at the time. It remains unclear if they will be reinstated.