On Thursday (Feb. 11), a grand jury chose not to indict two Buffalo police officers who shoved a 75-year-old protester to the ground last summer. Officers Aaron Torgalski and Robert McCabe were charged with felony second-degree assault for the incident, which left elderly Black Lives Matter protester Martin Gugino with a fractured skull and brain injury.
Footage of the June 4 incident quickly went viral, showing Torgalski push Gugino to the ground and McCabe and others walk past him while he lay bleeding from his head. Torgalski and McCabe were suspended without pay after the incident and pleaded not guilty to the charges. However, Buffalo News reports, their paychecks were reinstated 30 days after the incident. The police department said on Thursday that they will remain suspended pending the outcome of an internal affairs investigation.
In a press conference, Erie County District Attorney John Flynn said he could not disclose the jury’s private proceedings but claimed he gave them “all relevant evidence” about the case.
“I’ve got 28 years as a naval officer and I live and breathe every day by the core values: honor, courage and commitment,” he said Thursday. “Integrity happens to be a big thing with me. I’m sitting here right now talking into every one of these mics, looking at every one of these cameras right here, looking at each one of you in the eye right now and I’m telling you that I sandbagged nothing.”
“I went into that grand jury; I put all relevant evidence into that grand jury,” he continued. “I put multiple witnesses in that grand jury. I put everything that was not cumulative into that grand jury. And you got my word on that.”
In a statement, the Buffalo Police Benevolent Association said it was “extremely pleased” with the decision.
“As we have stated all along, 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,” they said.
“We are grateful the grand jury decided not to charge. They saw there was no criminal intent,” Buffalo PBA President John Evans added in an email to CNN. “These officers have been put through hell. We look forward for their return to work.”