Lawyers representing a 75-year-old protester who was pushed to the ground by New York State police during a demonstration in the days following George Floyd’s death filed a much-anticipated lawsuit in federal court on Monday, less than two weeks after criminal charges against the employees involved had been dropped.
The case, filed in the U.S. District Court for the West District of New York, alleges that the city of Buffalo, Mayor Byron Brown, Police Commissioner Byron K. Lockwood and Deputy Police Commissioner Joseph Gramalia violated the rights of longtime activist Martin Guglino. “Unconstitutional”
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He also accused Buffalo police officers Robert McCabe, Aaron Torgalski and John Lossie of using “illegal and unnecessary force” against Gugino from the town hall “by pushing him without warning in violation of his clearly established constitutional rights guaranteed by the First, The fourth and fourth amendments to the United States Constitution. “Gugino was lost unconscious and laid on the sidewalk with” blood pouring from his broken skull, “according to court documents.
The 55-page lawsuit seeks economic, non-economic and criminal damages after the grand jury refused to press charges against McCabe and Torgalski on charges of assault. Erie County District Attorney John Flynn said he did not have to believe the dispute caught on camera had escalated to the level of a felony, but state law required prosecutors to file such charges when the victim was at least 65 and the suspects perpetrators are at least 10 years younger.
On June 4, 2020, the Buffalo Police Department deployed a 57-member militarized force called the “Emergency Response Team” to disperse three people, one of whom was Gugino, sitting on the steps of the town hall.
A video recorded by a local news team went viral in the midst of George Floyd’s protests across the country, showing the team moving forward in a formation of three people sitting under pressure from Buffalo City Hall, shouting, “Keep going, March.”
Minutes after 8 p.m., Gugino rose from his steps and walked toward the officers when the tactical team shouted in unison, “Push him, push him,” according to the case. Losi pushed McCabe and Torgalski toward Gugino.
They forcibly pushed Gugino to the ground, according to the case. Then he stumbled and fell backwards. Members of the emergency response team walked past Gugino as he lay unconscious on the ground, according to the case.
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“Gugino was a victim of police brutality as he protested peacefully and constitutionally against police brutality,” one of his lawyers, Richard Weisbeck, said in a statement. “If the roles were reversed and Gugino pushed a BPD employee who then broke his skull, he would immediately be charged with good reason.”
Gugino was transported to Erie County Medical Center after suffering a concussion and a skull fracture. He was initially treated in intensive care and released four weeks later on June 30.
The case cited a statement issued by the Buffalo Police Department immediately after the incident, alleging that someone had “stumbled and fallen” in front of City Hall. The mayor issued a statement saying that someone who had been involved in a “physical altercation” had been “overthrown.”
McCabe and Torgalski were suspended without pay and arrested within days of the incident. They pleaded not guilty and were released on bail pending further development.
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The Buffalo Police Charitable Association has repeatedly claimed that the officers did nothing wrong but impose curfews. All 57 members of the emergency response team withdrew from their positions, which police union president John Evans publicly said he “supports the two dismissed officers and is disgusted with how the administration is dealing with the whole incident,” the statement said. the statement of claim.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.