Buffalo, NY – A retired Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agent who trained the Buffalo police officers charged with assaulting a 75-year-old protester said there was no chance they’ll be convicted because they did exactly what they were taught to do.
Retired FBI Agent Gary DiLaura told The Sun that he would testify in court that the two officers charged with assault had actually done less to the protester than they were trained to do.
“I can’t believe that they didn’t deck him,” DiLaura said. “If that would have been a 40-year-old guy going up there, I guarantee you they’d have been all over him. They would have put him on ground, and they would have cuffed him and dragged him with his arms behind his back to the paddy wagon and charged him with assault, failure to follow lawful orders, all the stuff.”
Cell phone video captured the moment that Martin Gugino, an elderly protester, walked directly into the line of oncoming Buffalo Police Department Emergency Response Team (ERT) officers who were clearing a demonstration from in front of City Hall on June 4.
The video showed Gugino was carrying a device as he approached the group of riot gear-clad officers walking toward him, The Sun reported.
In the video, he approached the officers and reached out to hold the device in front of one of them.
One of the officer reached out and gave Gugino a shove, and the elderly man stumbled backwards and then fell, hitting his head on the sidewalk.
“You’ve got these guys in riot gear and they’re supposed to be holding a line and they got a supervisor and the supervisor tells him what to do,” DiLaura explained. “And if he tells them to push the crowd back, they have to hold the line and push the crowd back. And they were moving forward slowly.”
“He gets up to him and he starts to rubbing this device that he has up and down on the cops,” the former FBI agent continued. “It could be a smartphone. It could be a little bomb. I mean, you can put enough C4 in a cellphone to put a pretty good size hole in an airplane, let alone blow up a person.”
“They have no idea what this guy’s doing,” he told The Sun. “Put yourself in their spot, here’s a guy who has no business being here. This guy’s obviously an old man. He should not be here.”
The former Buffalo ERT trainer said the officers didn’t stop when Gugino fell because they were following orders.
“Their supervisor told them, keep holding the line. I’ll stay here. So the supervisor stayed there with him,” DiLaura explained. “Of course the video doesn’t show that, but the supervisor stayed there with him and called the ambulance or EMT.”
He said it could have ended up worse for the elderly Gugino.
“He absolutely got away lightly,” DiLaura said. “He got a light push and in my humble opinion, he took a dive and the dive backfired because he hit his head. Maybe it’ll knock a little bit of sense into him.”
“These cops were acting how they have been trained to act. There’s no way they are going to be convicted of assault,” the man who trained them added.
Buffalo Police Officers Aaron Torgalski and Robert McCabe were both suspended without pay immediately following the incident, The Washington Post reported.
The next day, all 57 members of the Buffalo PD’s ERT resigned from the specialized, voluntary unit.
Two days after the incident, Officer Torgalski and McCabe were charged with assault, The Washington Post reported.
A recently-retired Buffalo police lieutenant and former member of the ERT told WGRZ that based on his experience, Officers Torgalski and McCabe had behaved exactly as they were trained.
“From my opinion and the training that I went through the officers did exactly as they were instructed,” the retired lieutenant said. “Whatever supervisor it was gave orders for the ERT team members to form a line and clear that area and through the training that we got with ERT one of the things you do is you move people back. If they don’t move willingly, you move them back with force.”
DiLaura, who has been qualified and testified as a firearms expert and defensive tactics expert many times in federal court, said he would offer his expert testimony about what happened at the officers’ trial for free, The Sun reported.
“And now I have volunteered pro bono that I would testify in court that these case officers did exactly what they were trained to do and exercised exemplary control,” he said.