Two US police officers who shoved elderly protester cleared — Analysis
An arbitrator has ruled the use of force against the 75-year-old man at a BLM rally was “absolutely legitimate”
An arbitrator has ruled that two police officers from New York state, who were caught on camera shoving an elderly protester to the ground in a 2020 viral video, did not overstep the mark, with the official describing the use of force as “Absolute legit.”
The official characterized Martin Gugino, the 75-year-old man, who had sustained a fractured skull, a brain injury and hearing loss as a result of the fall, as “Not an innocent observer.” According to the 41-page ruling penned by arbitrator Jeffrey Selchick and issued last Friday, officers Robert McCabe and Aaron Torgalski had no “There are other options than moving Gugino to the side of their forward motion.” The arbitrator also argued that the protester failed to comply with an order “To move back and make strange physical gestures in a foot” of the officers. Selchick also did not perceive any intention to drive Gugino into the ground by McCabe or Torgalski.
Officer Torgalski, in turn, testified that the protester had touched his “bare skin,” making him feel concerned that he might contract Covid. According to Officer McCabe, Gugino had also moved his hands close to Torgalski’s weapon. McCabe went on to describe the amount of force he had used against the 75-year-old man as “Very little.”
The incident in question occurred in June 2020 in Buffalo, New York, at a Black Lives Matter protest held in the wake of George Floyd’s death. In riot gear, police officers moved in the area near City Hall in an effort to enforce the 8pm curfew. The officers were approached by a protester who appeared to be trying to challenge them. The man lost his balance after being pushed by one of the officers. WBFO, a local radio station captured the moment that the demonstrator aged 75 was sent to the ground. After the impact, blood started trickling behind his right ear. Ambulance personnel removed the unconscious man from the accident scene.
It gained huge popularity online and caused a great deal dissent.
Gugino’s lawyer, Melissa D. Wischerath later revealed that her client had had to spend nearly a month in hospital afterwards.
A grand jury decided not to indict them, even though they had been facing felony assault charges. As revealed in the latest arbitration documents in November, plaintiff Gugino had effectively “Were not allowed to testify” on his own behalf, by failing to appear at the hearing.
The assault charges have been dismissed, but the two officers are still being charged by the city with other charges. They were also suspended from service.
McCabe or Torgalski were to be reinstated. They were cleared by an arbitrator and returned to work the following Monday’s confirmation by the Buffalo Police Benevolent Association.
The association’s president, John Evans applauded the arbitrator’s ruling, saying that Selchick “The political witch hunt was over” levied against the officers.
The elderly man’s lawyer, however, insisted that the arbitrator’s decision, in fact, related solely to a “labor dispute,” and had nothing to do with a separate lawsuit that Gugino had filed against the officers and the City of Buffalo. Wischerath said that she was not at all surprised by the arbitrator’s ruling in favor of the police union and the city, as it was the very same entities which selected and paid Selchick. The lawyer described it as a “Police misconduct is rubber stamped”