Two Buffalo, New York, police officers who were shown on video shoving a 75-year-old protester to the ground are under investigation for potential criminal liability, a spokeswoman for the region’s district attorney said on Friday.
“The Erie County District Attorney’s Office continues to investigate the incident captured on video outside City Hall Thursday evening that resulted in the injury of (a) protester,” Kait Munro said in an emailed statement.
All 57 members of a police tactical unit have resigned from that team to protest the suspension of their two colleagues, local media reported on Friday.
Local media quoted Buffalo Police Benevolent Association President John Evans as saying the officers were simply doing their job, and that their colleagues on the response team had resigned from the special unit in protest at their treatment.
The 57 remain police officers, local media said. Evans could not be reached for comment.
The incident on Thursday raised further questions about police behaviour, after the death of African-American man George Floyd in Minneapolis set off nationwide street protests.
The Buffalo video taken by a reporter from local radio station WBFO and posted online shows the white-haired man approaching a line of officers in riot gear. One officer pushes him with a baton and a second one with his hand. The sound of a crack is heard and blood trickles from the man’s head.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Friday that he had spoken with the injured man, Martin Gugino, and was thankful to confirm he was alive. Cuomo said the police chief should fire the officers involved.
“You see that video and it disturbs your basic sense of decency and humanity,” Cuomo told a daily briefing. “Why, why, why was that necessary? Where was the threat?”
Gugino, who is white, could not be immediately reached for comment. PUSH Buffalo, which advocates for affordable housing, confirmed that Gugino is a member of the community group.
The video in Buffalo shows the majority of the officers march past after Gugino falls, though the officer who pushed him with a baton starts to lean over him before he is motioned away by another officer. Someone is heard calling for a medic.
Buffalo mayor Byron Brown said the incident took place after an altercation between two groups of people protesting the death of Floyd in Minneapolis, though Gugino appeared to be alone as he walked up to the group of officers in the video.