Arbitrator clears Buffalo police officers who pushed 75-year-old protester to ground in 2020

BUFALO, NY – The arbitrator ruled that two police officers from Buffalo did not violate the guidelines of the Department for the Use of Force when they pushed a 75-year-old protester to the ground in June 2020 during a protest against racial injustice after the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

The episode attracted national attention when it was a journalist team a footage of Martin Gugin being pushed by police officers Robert McCabe and Aaron Torgalski in downtown Buffalo, while mass control officers in riot gear cleaned up protesters for curfew at 8 p.m.

Gugino, pushed back, began to bleed after hitting his head on the sidewalk and spent about a month in hospital with a skull fracture and brain injury.

In Friday’s ruling, arbitrator Jeffrey Selchick wrote: “After consideration, there is no evidence to support any claim that the respondents (police officers) had any viable option other than to remove Gugino from the road ahead.”

The level of force used by the police was justified because Gugino refused to comply with the order to leave the scene and behaved disorderly, and went directly in front of McCabe, Selchick said.

“The use of force used by the respondents did not reflect their intention to do more than distance Gugin from them,” he wrote.

McCabe and Torgalski were suspended without pay and arrested a few days after the incident, but last year the grand jury refused to charge them and the charges were dropped.

Gugin’s lawyer, who sued the city, told Buffalo News that the verdict has no effect on the lawsuit.

“We do not know of any case where this arbitrator ruled against the police officers on duty, so his decision here on behalf of the police was not only expected by us, but certainly by the union and the city that chose and paid for it. “Melissa Wischerath told the newspaper.

Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia said in a statement that he would return the two officers to duty on Monday, the newspaper reported.

Emails asking for comment were left on Sunday to a lawyer representing the city, who advocated for disciplinary charges, and the Buffalo Police Union.

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