The suspension of two police officers who shoved a 75-year-old man during protests has prompted the resignation of 57 others from the police emergency response team in Buffalo, New York. The 57 police officers only resigned from the emergency response team and not from the police force, and they made up the entire response unit in the Buffalo police department.
It started when police officers in tactical gear were drafted to Niagara Square to manage a crowd of protesters who had gathered to protest the Minneapolis police killing 46-year-old George Floyd, a black unarmed man. The 75-year-old Martin Gugino approached a group of police officers to reportedly discuss First Amendment rights with them, but two police officers shoved him to the ground and left him bleeding when his head hit the sidewalk.
President of the Buffalo Police Benevolent Association, John Evans, confirmed the “57 resigned in disgust because of the treatment of two of their members, who were simply executing orders”.
Gugino has been hospitalized at the Erie County Medical Center and reported to be in stable condition. His lawyer, Kelly V. Zarone, said Gugino is a longtime peaceful protester and human rights, advocate.
“Mr. Gugino requests privacy for himself and his family as he recovers,” said Kelly V. Zarone. “He appreciates all of the good wishes he has received and requests that any further protests continue to be peaceful.”
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo condemned the way the police officers shoved Gugino and left him to bleed, saying the two officers should be fired and not only suspended.
“When I saw the video, I got sick to my stomach,” Cuomo said. “You see that video, and it disturbs your basic sense of decency and humanity. I would encourage the district attorney not to do what happened in Minneapolis, which the delay itself caused issues. People don’t want vaguery. They are upset and want answers.”
Cuomo called the police incident “wholly unjustified and utterly disgraceful”, saying he agreed with Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown to suspend the police officers pending a formal investigation. “Police officers must enforce – NOT ABUSE – the law,” he tweeted.
Erie County District Attorney’s Office said investigations are ongoing on the incident and that the result will be made public later. Buffalo Police Commissioner Byron Lockwood suspended the two officers without pay and ordered an inquiry. The initial police statement was that Gugino tripped and fell, but the police changed their statement when television stations air it and it drew wide ire from the public.