75-year-old protester shoved to ground by police in Buffalo files lawsuit

A 75-year-old man who was seen being shoved to the ground by Buffalo police and bleeding on the ground during a protest last year is suing the officers and other officials, according to court documents.

Martin Gugino suffered a fractured skull in the June 4 encounter, which was captured on video.

The suit filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York seeks economic damages as well as punitive damages “in an amount sufficient to punish them and deter others from similar conduct.”

A prosecutor filed charges against two Buffalo police officers, Robert McCabe and Aaron Torgalski, but a grand jury earlier this month declined charges, and the case was dismissed.

Those two officers are named in the civil suit, as well as a third who was not charged, along with the city, police commissioner and Mayor Byron Brown.

Emailed requests for comment to the mayor’s office and the police department were not immediately returned early Tuesday, but on Monday, the city had no comment to NBC affiliate WGRZ. A spokesperson told the station that corporation counsel would handle the case.

Gugino was shoved shortly after an 8 p.m. curfew took effect.

The protest was held in the wake of the death of George Floyd, a Black man who died after a white Minneapolis police officer kneeled on his neck on May 25. Floyd’s death sparked protests all over the country.

The complaint says that the police team “yelled out in chorus, ‘push him, push him'” after Gugino approached a line of police officers with batons and helmets.

It alleges that another officer pushed McCabe and Torgalski toward the activist and they then pushed him, causing him to fall and be seriously injured.

After charges were declined earlier this month, the president of the Buffalo Police Benevolent Association defended the officers’ actions.

“Officers McCabe and Torgalski were simply following departmental procedures and the directives of their superiors to clear Niagara Square despite working under extremely challenging circumstances,” the union president, John Evans, said in a statement.

Gugino suffered a concussion and fractured skull and spent nearly a month in the hospital.

Gugino has said that he believes the curfew was wrong.

The lawsuit says Gugino’s right to peaceful assembly was violated, that the use of force against him was unlawful and unnecessary, and that the curfew was unconstitutional.