Buffalo’s police union attorney calls felony charges against two officers ‘a stretch’

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BUFFALO N.Y. (WIVB) – The attorney for the Buffalo Police Union says he disagrees with the set of charges District Attorney John Flynn laid out against to Buffalo police officers.

Thomas Burton who’s an attorney with the Buffalo PBA says Buffalo officers Aaron Torgalski and Robert McCabe were doing what they were trained to do during Thursday’s protest and it’s unfortunate someone was hurt.

“It’s going to be a vigorous defense,” Burton said. “We don’t believe either one of these officers are anywhere near guilty.”

Both officers face felony charges after protester Martin Gugino was injured during Thursday’s rally in Niagara Square. Video taken by WBFO Radio shows the officers shoving Gugino away. Burton is directly representing McCabe and says neither officer intended to hurt Gugino.

“None of the cops wanted to see this fellow get hurt,” he said. “None of them. It’s a real stretch in our view to suggest that they intended to hurt this man when they were doing what that SWAT is designed to do and following their training. It was an unfortunate outcome but none of those cops started out trying to hurt someone.”

Burton trains officers at the Buffalo Police Academy on what’s known as the use of force continuum, which provides law enforcement officers with guidelines as to how much force they may use against a resisting person in a given situation. He says that is something his legal team will be talking more about as this case develops.

“We believe this thing is better handled where it belongs and that’s in court,” Burton said.

Buffalo PBA President John Evans, was among the group of people outside the courthouse as Torgalski and McCabe were arraigned Saturday morning. He agrees with Burton that DA Flynn charging them with a felony is too much.

“The conditions are what they are and the city put them in this spot really,” Evans said. “They created these conditions that they cannot work under.”

All 57 members of Buffalo’s Emergency Response Team has since resigned. According to Burton, that was an individual decision between each member of the team.

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Sarah Minkewicz is a reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2019. See more of her work here.

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