Two Buffalo police officers were charged with assault Saturday after a video showed them shoving a 75-year-old protester in demonstrations over the death of George Floyd, the Associated Press reports. Robert McCabe and Aaron Torgalski, who surrendered, pleaded not guilty to second-degree assault. They were released without bail. McCabe, 32, and Torgalski, 39, “crossed a line” when they shoved the man down hard enough for him to crack his head on the ground, said Erie County District Attorney John Flynn, calling the victim “a harmless 75-year-old man.” The officers were suspended without pay Friday after a TV crew captured the confrontation the night before.
The footage shows the man, longtime activist 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 another officer urges the colleague to keep walking. The police officers “knew this was bad,” Flynn said of the video. “Look at their body language.” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said, “I think there was criminal liability from what I saw on the video.” Dozens of Buffalo police officers who were angered over their fellow officers’ suspensions stepped down from the department’s crowd control unit. The resigning officers did not leave their jobs altogether.