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Two Buffalo Cops Charged With Assault After Video Goes Viral

Gettyimages | MattGush
By A. Elise

Protests against police brutality and racism have led to viral videos and criminal charges. Two Buffalo police officers who were seen in a viral video pushing a 75-year-old man to the ground were arraigned Saturday morning. Both men were charged with felony assault after several videos of the incident were published on social media.

Aaron Torgalski and Robert McCabe pleaded not guilty to the charges, and both were released on their own recognizance. They are due to return to court on July 20 to face charges. If they are convicted, they could face seven years in prison.

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Over 78 million people have seen video of the incident, which occurred on June 4. The officers moved toward protester Martin Gugino, allegedly pushing him before he fell and hit his head on the concrete. Blood began to spill from his ear as officers walked past the victim.

After the alleged assault, the two officers were suspended without pay. After this announcement, 57 members of the Buffalo Police Department Emergency Response Team resigned in support of those officers and in protest of their suspension.

The mayor of Buffalo, Byron Brown, made a statement calling for an investigation into the incident.

Police officers standing in street
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Mayor Brown referred to Gugino as an "agitator" in his statement. He claimed that the protesters remained until dark, which creates "potential for violence." It is notable to mention that the alleged assault against Gugino did not appear to occur when it was dark.

Brown also mentioned "fires set" and "stores broken into and looted." He said, "that individual was a key and major instigator of people engaging in those activities." Evidence of Gugino participating in those behaviors is not available, and he was not engaging in looting or violence when he was injured.

New York governor Andrew Cuomo demanded an investigation into the incident, saying the video made him "sick to [his] stomach."

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The latest information about Gugino's condition describes him being hospitalized in "serious but stable" condition.

Following the incident, police officers claimed that the elderly man tripped and fell during the protest. Video footage from different angles emerged, showing another side to the story.

Officers were clearing Niagara Square after curfew hours officially began when Gugino was injured. Torgalski is accused of being the one to push Gugino, and McCabe could be seen beginning to kneel toward the victim. A supervisor apparently urged McCabe to keep moving forward rather than to provide medical assistance.

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Gettyimages | DANIEL SLIM

McCabe's arraignment lasted about two minutes. The 32-year-old veteran is represented by attorney Joseph M. LaTona, as is Torgalski. Torgalski, 39, also briefly appeared. Both officers remain suspended without pay. After the arraignment, police officers and their supporters cheered for the men outside the courthouse.

Those critical of the officers' actions question why they did not simply handcuff and arrest Gugino if they suspected he was committing a crime. Instead, they allowed him to bleed on the ground without administering medical care. It appeared to be a case of unnecessary force to many viewers.

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