The Buffalo, New York police officers seen shoving a 75-year-old protester in a viral video have been arrested, according to a report by ABC News. Officers Aaron Torglaski and Robert McCabe have been charged with second-degree assault, with the video from Thursday's Black Lives Matter protest serving as evidence. Both former officers have pleaded not guilty to the charges and are expected back in court on July 20.
The graphic video from Thursday's protest sparked outrage this week on social media. It showed a small gathering of fewer than 20 demonstrators in Niagara Square being met with a heavily-armed force of police marching forward like an army battalion. When 75-year-old protester Martin Gugino failed to make way for the police, Torglaski and McCabe shoved him back. Gugino fell to the ground and immediately went still, but the rest of the police stepped over his body, even as blood reportedly leaked from his ears and pooled beneath him.
New Tonight: Disturbing video from @WBFO in Buffalo, NY shows an elderly man walk up to police in riot gear. An officer shoves the man...he falls backwards, hits his head...starts bleeding immediately...motionless.— David Begnaud (@DavidBegnaud) June 5, 2020
Why did this happen @BPDAlerts ?
Gugino is now in "serious but stable condition," said his attorney, Kelly V. Zarcone, in a statement, adding that he is "alert and oriented. "Mr. Gugino has been a longtime peaceful protester, human rights advocate, and overall fan of the U.S. Constitution for many years," Zarcone said.
The outrage over the video redoubled when a spokesperson for the city and the police department initially said that Gugino "tripped and fell." That same spokesperson — Mike DeGeorge — later hinted that officials had not seen the video when that statement was released. "Once the department became aware of additional video from the scene, they immediately opened an investigation," he claimed.
Torglaski and McCabe were suspended from the Buffalo Police Department after that, yet appeasing the protesters led to outrage among the police instead. In solidarity with their colleagues, 57 members of the city's emergency response team resigned from those positions. However, they remain on the police force itself and continue to draw salaries there.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo condemned McCabe and Torglaski on Saturday as well. During his press conference, Cuomo called the video "horrendous, disgusting," adding that "a bad police officer is an enemy of every good police officer." He said that he believed McCabe and Torglaski's conduct in the video was illegal.
I'm pissed off. I was pissed off after the killing of George Floyd. Enough just thinking I'm pissed off. I need to say I'm pissed off. I've always been reluctant on speaking out, that ends now. Fire and charge #Torglaski with assault, minimum. Investigate the entire Buffalo PD. https://t.co/keCzg6ZS9k— Steve Karsok (@SKarsok) June 5, 2020
While activists and pundits online were glad to hear that McCabe and Torglaski were being brought to justice, many argued that arresting these officers still did not address the root of this problem. They asked why a heavily armored police force had been advancing on a small, peaceful protest in the first place. Protests in Buffalo continue to heat up, with many signs in the crowd calling for drastic reform or complete abolition of the city's police department.