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Two Buffalo police officers suspended following shoving incident

UPDATED

Fri, Jun 5th 2020 10:25 am

At the end of a protest Thursday at Niagara Square in the City of Buffalo, WBFO caught two Buffalo Police Department officers engaging with a 75-year-old man. That individual is shown being shoved and falling to the ground. He remained there until medical help arrived.

In response, the Erie County District Attorney’s Office released a statement that it, “continues to investigate the incident captured on video outside City Hall Thursday evening that resulted in the injury of protester. The victim was taken to ECMC to be treated for a head injury. He was unable to provide a statement to investigators last night. We will provide an update as the investigation progresses.”

The Buffalo Police Department posted this update on Facebook:

“The Buffalo Police Commissioner has immediately suspended two police officers tonight who were seen on video pushing an elderly man to the ground. An internal affairs investigation is currently underway into the incident.”

Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown posted the following on Facebook:

“Tonight, after a physical altercation between two separate groups of protesters participating in an illegal demonstration beyond the curfew, two Buffalo Police officers knocked down a 75-year-old man. The victim is in stable but serious condition at ECMC. I was deeply disturbed by the video, as was Buffalo Police Commissioner Byron Lockwood. He directed an immediate investigation into the matter, and the two officers have been suspended without pay. After days of peaceful protests and several meetings between myself, Police leadership and members of the community, tonight’s event is disheartening. I hope to continue to build on the progress we have achieved as we work together to address racial injustice and inequity in the City of Buffalo. My thoughts are with the victim tonight.”

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz posted this statement:

“I've seen videos of the incident in front of Buffalo's City Hall in which an older protester appears to have been shoved by police, fell backwards and suffered a serious head injury. It sickens me. I've confirmed he is at Erie County Medical Center in stable condition. My thoughts are with him now.

He then posted this update:

“Edited for further update on tonight's incident. I've confirmed the 75 year old man injured tonight is in serious but stable condition at ECMC. While it is early, thankfully he is expected to recover.

“What we saw sickened us all. Simply put, the officers must be held responsible for their actions, not just fired.”

On Friday, he added:

“We are all disgusted by yesterday's incident between members of the BPD and a 75 year old man. As I said last night, the officers involved must be held responsible, and not just fired.

“I have been advised that as of this morning the man is in serious but stable condition at ECMC, and he is alert and oriented. We all wish him the best and a full, quick recovery.”

Congressman Brian Higgins released this statement: “The completely unwarranted use of force by police in front of Buffalo City Hall last night is a call to action for our city and country. 

“Videos are exposing unchecked bad actors and the painful truth of what has been happening in our communities for far too long.

“George Floyd’s murder has led to a nationwide outcry for change. This unacceptable incident right here in our community – and others across the country in the wake of this tragedy – shows how widespread and urgent of a change is needed.

“The House of Representatives will soon release a legislative package led by the Congressional Black Caucus addressing equal justice and police brutality. There is clearly much work to do. I am eager to work with my colleagues to advance these measures swiftly.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced, "The incident in Buffalo is wholly unjustified and utterly disgraceful.

"I've spoken with City of Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown and we agree that the officers involved should be immediately suspended.

"Police officers must enforce – NOT ABUSE – the law."

One elected leader has taken a different position on this issue.

On Sunday, Erie County Comptroller Stefan I. Mychajliw announced he sent letters to Buffalo Police Union President John Evans and Commissioner Byron Lockwood of the Buffalo Police Department “pledging support for the two officers and all those that wear the badge.”

Mychajliw, who is running for New York State Senate, also said, “The officers need to know we have their back. Violent rioters and protestors attack police and have no respect for the rule of law. Their jobs have been made more difficult than ever. Police deserve the public’s praise, not political prosecution. Law enforcement is trying to maintain law and order and peace during this period of civil unrest.”

He explained, “There should be zero tolerance for lawbreakers who attack police,” and said and he “stands with them (the police).”

Mychajliw said, “The recent arrests of two Buffalo Police officers during these unsettling times is a travesty. Criminals should be places in cuffs, not cops. Members of law enforcement protect our community. They put their own lives at risk every day to keep us safe.”

UPDATE

The DA's office released this press release on Saturday:

Erie County District Attorney John J. Flynn announces that 39-year-old Aaron Torgalski and 32-year-old Robert McCabe have been arraigned before Buffalo City Court Judge Craig D. Hannah on one count of Assault in the Second Degree, a Class “D” felony.

It is alleged that on Thursday, June 4, 2020, at approximately 8:00 p.m., the two defendants, who are Buffalo Police officers, pushed a protester outside of City Hall, causing him to fall and hit his head on the sidewalk.

The 75-year-old male victim was taken to ECMC to be treated for a head injury, loss of consciousness, and bleeding from the right ear. He remains hospitalized in critical condition.

Torgalski and McCabe are scheduled to return on Monday, July 20, 2020 at 9:30 a.m. for a felony hearing. Both were released on their own recognizance.

If convicted on the charge, the maximum possible sentence is 7 years in prison.

The case is being prosecuted by Chief Gary W. Hackbush of the DA’s Tactical Prosecution Unit and Chief John P. Feroleto of the DA’s Felony Trials Bureau.

As are all persons accused of a crime, the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

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