Criminal charges were dropped against two Buffalo, New York police officers who were filmed pushing a 75-year-old protester to the ground, the county’s district attorney said on Thursday.
A grand jury declined to indict Officers Robert McCabe and Aaron Torgalski on felony assault charges, said Erie County District Attorney John Flynn. The incident occurred in early June amid nationwide protests over the death of George Floyd.
“Obviously, we are ecstatic with their decision,” John Evans, the president of the Buffalo Police Benevolent Association, told The Buffalo News. “These officers have been put through hell and I look forward to seeing them back on the job.”
A Grand Jury chose not to charge two Buffalo police officers who pushed 75-year-old Martin Gugino to the ground (fracturing his skull) during a protest last June, Erie County District Attorney John Flynn announced pic.twitter.com/H2ZqSm4NHc
— Michael Holmes (@holmescnn) February 11, 2021
The incident was captured by a Buffalo news crew covering protests throughout the city. The crew captured video of the officers shoving protester Martin Gugino to the ground as officers in riot gear cleared the immediate area.
After falling backward onto the cement sidewalk, Gugino lied motionless as blood starting spilling from his head. He spent about a month in the hospital recovering from a fractured skull and brain injury. (RELATED: Buffalo Protester Unable To Walk After Fracturing Skull)
While McCabe and Torgalski were arrested only days after the incident occurred, Flynn said he was unsure whether their actions amounted to being intentional or reckless.
“All I need is probable cause for an arrest,” he said. “When I go to trial, though, I need beyond a reasonable doubt. At this point right now, it’s 50/50 in my mind as to whether or not it was intentional or reckless. If it’s 50/50, that’s not beyond a reasonable doubt.”
“That analysis factors into my mind, but I can’t articulate to you what was going on in [grand jurors’] minds,” Flynn added.
After their arrest in June, approximately 60 officers from the department’s crowd control unit resigned in protest, effectively leaving it unable to function. Buffalo adopted several reforms in the wake of the event, including ceasing arrests for low-level non-violent offenses and making police body camera footage more accessible to the public.
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