USAToday reports an entire unit of the Buffalo Police Department resigned from their assignments Friday after two officers were suspended amid outcry over video showing officers shoving a 75-year-old man to the ground, according to the Buffalo News and other media outlets.
All 57 of the members of the department’s Emergency Response Team resigned from the unit, which responds to riots and other crowd control situations, according to the outlets. The Emergency Response Team members have not quit the police department, but have stepped down from the tactical unit, the Buffalo News reported.
Attorney Kelly V. Zarcone issued a statement from Martin Gugino, the man who was pushed to the ground, saying Gugino is “a longtime peaceful protester, human rights advocate, and overall fan of the US Constitution.”
Gugino is in “serious but stable condition. He is alert and oriented,” Zarcone said in the emailed statement. He requests privacy and that future protests remain peaceful.
Graphic video from WBFO shows the two officers pushing Gugino down as he approached them in a public square around an 8 p.m. curfew Thursday. Gugino stumbles back and falls, and the video shows him motionless and bleeding from his head.
“Our position is these officers were simply following orders from Deputy Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia to clear the square,” said Buffalo Police Benevolent Association President John Evans. “It doesn’t specify clear the square of men, 50 and under or 15 to 40. They were simply doing their job. I don’t know how much contact was made. He did slip in my estimation. He fell backwards.”
Asked about the resigning officers at a press conference that afternoon, Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz he would be “disappointed” if they had in fact resigned.
“If they resigned, I’m exceptionally disappointed by it because it indicates to me that they did not see anything wrong with the actions last night,” Poloncarz said.
The Erie County District Attorney’s Office tweeted Friday that it was continuing its investigation of the incident and that the man was unable to provide a statement to investigators Thursday night.
The officer’s actions quickly drew condemnation from around the state, including Gov. Andrew Cuomo who said the “incident is wholly unjustified and utterly disgraceful.”
During a press briefing Friday, Cuomo played video of the incident, watching it wide-eyed before questioning the officers’ actions.
“You see that video and it disturbs your basic sense of decency and humanity,” Cuomo said.
“Why? Why? Why was that necessary? Where was the threat? It was an older gentleman. Where was the threat? And then you just walk by the person when you see blood coming from his head,” he said, describing the scene.
Cuomo also urged the mayor and district attorney in Buffalo to investigate the incident and move expeditiously towards potentially bringing criminal charges against and firing the officers involved.
Cuomo highlighted the incidents before pushing a police reform agenda being considered in the state legislature.