The 75-year-old protester hits Buffalo police with a lawsuit after being knocked down

A lawsuit was recently filed against the Buffalo Police Department and some of their officers over allegations that they deliberately knocked a protester to the ground last summer, breaking his skull.

Buffalo police were recently targeted in a lawsuit against a 75-year-old man who was allegedly pushed by police officers and had bleeding on the floor “during a protest last year”. The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York alleging the man, Martin Gugino, suffered a fractured skull in the June 4, 2020 incident. It is important to note that the incident was captured on video.

Black Lives Matter protesters. Image via Flickr / User: Tony Webster. (CCA-BY-2.0)

As part of the lawsuit, Gugino is seeking economic and punitive damages “in an amount sufficient to punish the officers and deter others from behaving in a similar manner”.

The two officers named in the lawsuit include Robert McCabe and Aaron Torgalski. Before the lawsuit was filed, a prosecutor brought charges against the officers, “but a grand jury dismissed the charges earlier this month and the case was dismissed.” In addition to McCabe and Torgalski, the city, the police commissioner, Mayor Bryon Brown and a third official were named in the lawsuit.

What happened? What was the protest about? For starters, the protest was one of many that happened in the summer months after George Floyd’s death. Floyd “died after a Minneapolis police officer kneeled on his neck on May 25th.” The death sparked outrage across the country and protests broke out in many cities.

Gugino took part in one of these protests in Buffalo. According to the suit, “he was pushed shortly after a curfew went into effect at 8:00 pm.” The lawsuit also alleges that the police shouted in unison, “Push him, push him after Gugino approached a line of cops with batons and helmets.” To make matters worse, the suit claims, “Another officer pushed McCabe and Torgalski in the direction of the activist and they pushed him, killing him and seriously injuring him.”

When the charges against the officers were denied earlier this month, the President of the Buffalo Police Benevolent Association spoke out in defense of the officers’ actions. John Evans, the union president, made the following statement:

“Officers McCabe and Torgalski simply followed departmental procedures and their superiors’ instructions to evacuate Niagara Square, even though they were working under extremely difficult circumstances.”

As a result of the incident, Gugino suffered a concussion and fractured skull and was hospitalized for a month. He added that he “believed the curfew was wrong” and unconstitutional. The lawsuit also alleges that his “right to peaceful assembly has been violated and that the use of force against him was illegal and unnecessary”.


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