·  Legal News, Analysis, & Commentary

Lawsuits & Litigation

75-year-old Protester Hits Buffalo Police with Lawsuit After Being Pushed to the Ground

— February 25, 2021

A lawsuit was recently filed against the Buffalo police department and a few of its officers over claims they purposefully pushed a protester to the ground last summer, causing him to fracture his skull.

The Buffalo police department recently came under fire in a lawsuit filed by a 75-year-old man who was allegedly shoved by officers and left bleeding on the ground “during a protest last year.” The suit was filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York and claims the man, Martin Gugino, ended up suffering a fractured skull from the incident that occurred back on June 4, 2020. It’s important to note, the incident was captured on video.

Black Lives Matter protesters. Image via Flickr/user:Tony Webster. (CCA-BY-2.0)

As part of the suit, Gugino is seeking economic damages and punitive damages “in an amount sufficient to punish the officers and deter others from similar conduct.” 

The two officers named in the lawsuit include Robert McCabe and Aaron Torgalski. Before the suit was filed, a prosecutor filed charges against the officers, “but a grand jury earlier this month declined charges and the case was dismissed.” In addition to McCabe and Torgalski, the city, police commissioner, Mayor Bryon Brown, and a third officer were named in the suit. 

What happened, though? What was the protest about? For starters, the protest was one of many that happened over the summer months in the wake of the death of George Floyd. Floyd “died after a Minneapolis police officer kneeled on his neck on May 25.” The death sparked outrage across the country and many cities erupted with protests. 

Gugino attended one of those protests in Buffalo. According to the suit, “he was shoved shortly after an 8 p.m. curfew took effect.” Additionally, the lawsuit alleges the police officers shouted in chorus, “push him, push him, after Gugino approached a line of police officers with batons and helmets.” To make matters worse, the suit claims “another officer pushed McCabe and Torgalski toward the activist and they then pushed him, causing him to fall and be seriously injured.”

When the charges against the officers were declined earlier this month, the president of the Buffalo Police Benevolent Association spoke up in defense of the officers’ actions. John Evans, the union president, issued the following statement:

“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.”

As a result of the incident, Gugino suffered a concussion and fractured skull and had to spend a month in the hospital. He added that he “believed the curfew was wrong” and unconstitutional. Additionally, the lawsuit alleges his “right to peaceful assembly was violated and that the use of force against him was unlawful and unnecessary.”


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

NY protester, 75, shoved by Buffalo police files lawsuit after cops’ charges dropped

Join the conversation!