Buffalo, NY – An Erie County grand jury dismissed the charges against two Buffalo police officers who shoved a 75-year-old protester last summer.
Eric County District Attorney John Flynn announced Thursday that the felony assault charges against Buffalo Police Officers Aaron Torgalski and Robert McCabe had been dropped, WIVB reported.
Flynn said he had played fair and given everything to the grand jury to review.
“The reality here is that no one is ever going to know, I’ll be honest the grand jury proceedings are secret, they’re sealed and no one is ever going to know what happened in that grand jury,” the prosecutor said afterwards. “So, you really only have my word that I didn’t sandbag anything. I put all relevant information and evidence into that grand jury and I presented it all to that grand jury and they made a decision.”
He said that reason the investigation had taken so long was that the grand jury was shut down for a period of time due to the pandemic, WGRZ reported.
Flynn said that when the grand jury resumed, he started with higher priority cases.
Officers Torgalski and McCabe remain suspended by the police department while Internal Affairs completes its investigation.
A Buffalo Police source tells me Torgalski & McCabe remain suspended at this time pending the completion of an Internal Affairs investigation.
— Marlee Tuskes (@MarleeTuskesTV) February 11, 2021
The incident occurred shortly after 8 p.m. on June 4 when the city’s curfew went into effect in response to the violent protests surrounding the death of 46-year-old George Floyd in the custody of Minneapolis police, WBFO reported.
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.
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 a 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.
In the video, the elderly man appeared unconscious as a pool of blood formed around his head.
The officer whom Gugino had approached first tried to bend down and check on the man but the officer behind him yanked him back up by the vest and pushed him past the elderly man on the sidewalk.
It appeared that the officers were simply ignoring the man on the ground, but there was a medic behind the police line who was able to tend to the man as soon as the line moved forward.
Officers Torgalski and 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.
Retired law enforcement officers and use-of-force experts offered to testify on behalf of the officers should their cases actually go to trial.
“He absolutely got away lightly,” retired Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Agent Gary 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.”
Agent DiLaura was one of the people who trained the Buffalo officers, The Sun reported.
“These cops were acting how they have been trained to act. There’s no way they are going to be convicted of assault,” he said.
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.