Buffalo Police Pushed Over A 75-Year-Old Man In A Graphic Video
The two officers were suspended without pay Thursday night after a video of the incident went viral.
Graphic video shows Buffalo, New York, police officers pushing a 75-year-old man back while enforcing curfew, knocking the man over and causing him to hit his head on the sidewalk and bleed from his ear.
The short, but shocking video was captured by local NPR station WBFO, and it quickly went viral after it was posted on Twitter.
The video shows the man approaching as dozens of police officers — all wearing full riot gear — look to be clearing Niagara Square in Buffalo to enforce the city's curfew.
The man walks up to one officer while pointing to another officer with his cellphone in one hand and holding on to a helmet in the other.
Seconds after he approaches, officers can be heard yelling, "Move!"
Officers are then heard chanting, "Push him back! Push him back!"
The two officers are then seen shoving the older man back, and one of the officers uses his baton to push the man backward.
The man takes several steps backward, then falls over, his head audibly smacking against the sidewalk. He is then seen laying motionless on the ground with blood coming out of his right ear.
"He's bleeding out his ear," someone can be heard saying.
Local ABC affiliate WKBW reported that a spokesperson with the department originally reported the man was injured when he "tripped & fell" — without mentioning any police involvement.
The video, however, shows the man tripped after he was pushed by the officers.
Video also shows the officer who pushed the man with a baton begin to kneel down, but another officer behind him pulls him up and pushes him to keep walking down the sidewalk.
The man was on Thursday night in a hospital in serious, but stable condition, Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown said in a statement. Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz tweeted that he was "alert and oriented" at the Erie County Medical Center.
A spokesperson for the hospital did not immediately respond to a request for comment from BuzzFeed News.
The man was identified as Martin Gugino, a peace activist from Amherst, by The Buffalo News.
"He’s a gentle person who really believes that he must stand up for what he thinks is right," his friend and fellow activist Terrence Bisson said. "That’s why he went to the demonstration. He would never resist physically any kind of orders... He’s a bit frail, not because of his age. He has some health problems."
The city's police commissioner has ordered an investigation into the incident and suspended the two officers without pay pending its outcome.
"I was deeply disturbed by the video, as was Buffalo Police Commissioner Byron Lockwood," he said.
In his statement, the mayor also described the demonstration after curfew as "illegal" and noted that two groups of protesters had gotten into a physical altercation before the events depicted in the video.
After the video circulated widely on social media, a petition was created to fire one of the police officers seen pushing the man in the video. At the time of this publication, more than 175,000 people have signed.
Buffalo Police did not immediately return multiple BuzzFeed News requests for comment and information about the incident.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo also responded to the video, calling the incident "wholly unjustified and utterly disgraceful."
In a press conference on Friday, Cuomo showed the video of the incident and said watching it made him feel "sick to my stomach."
"It disturbs your basic sense of decency and humanity," Cuomo said. "Why? Why was that necessary? Where was threat?"
Cuomo said he'd spoken on the phone with the man, who he named as Gugino, who the governor said "thankfully is alive."
He said watching a large crowd of police just walk by the man's motionless body on the ground was "fundamentally offensive and frightening." Even so, he praised the police force, saying "99.9%" of cops are good and that he has "total respect for the occupation and the people who do it."
Cuomo praised Mayor Brown for swiftly suspending the officers, and said he believes the city should pursue firing the officers and that the district attorney should look into pressing criminal charges.
Asked if the officers would face charged, a spokesperson for the Erie County District Attorney's office said they were investigating but could not yet speak to the victim, who was in hospital.
"He was unable to provide a statement to investigators last night," the spokesperson said. "We will provide an update as the investigation progresses.”