WARNING: This video is graphic.
BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — A man was taken away in an ambulance after being injured at the end of Thursday’s protest in Niagara Square.
A video that News 4 obtained from WBFO shows 75-year-old Martin Gugino being pushed back by police before falling backward and hitting his head near the steps of Buffalo City Hall.
Police originally said that “one person was injured when he tripped and fell”. It’s not clear whether they were referring to the incident that was caught on camera.
Later in the night, Buffalo Police Department Capt. Jeff Rinaldo said that internal affairs has opened an investigation into the incident, and that the investigation was ordered by the commissioner of police.
Buffalo Police Commissioner Byron Lockwood has ordered both officers involved in the incident suspended immediately without pay.
State police medics aided the injured man, and a source says that he suffered a laceration and a possible concussion.
The Erie County District Attorney’s Office says it is investigating the incident. They say the victim was unable to give investigators a statement last night.
Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz tweeted about the incident on Thursday evening, saying:
On Friday morning, he shared another update, saying the man is “still in serious but stable condition.” An ECMC official tells Poloncarz the man is “alert and oriented.”
Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown released this statement Thursday night:
Tonight, after a physical altercation between two separate groups of protesters participating in an illegal demonstration beyond the curfew, two Buffalo Police officers knocked down a 75-year-old man. The victim is in stable but serious condition at ECMC. I was deeply disturbed by the video, as was Buffalo Police Commissioner Byron Lockwood. He directed an immediate investigation into the matter, and the two officers have been suspended without pay. After days of peaceful protests and several meetings between myself, Police leadership and members of the community, tonight’s event is disheartening. I hope to continue to build on the progress we have achieved as we work together to address racial injustice and inequity in the City of Buffalo. My thoughts are with the victim tonight.
Mayor Brown then joined us Friday morning on Wake Up!
He says there was a discrepancy between the video and the information police sent out Thursday night because police were watching the event unfold from a monitor that didn’t show the full scope of officers pushing the man.
PUSH Buffalo released a statement on the incident, noting Gugino has been a longtime member of the group.
“We are shocked to hear about and witness the serious injuries suffered by a protester at yesterday’s peaceful demonstration against police violence in downtown Buffalo. The protester, long-time PUSH Buffalo member Martin Gugino, has been a tireless fighter against injustice of all types for many years in our city both with PUSH and other grassroots organizations. He has joined us in the struggle for a just transition from the corporate controlled, undemocratic, and militarized systems of oppression that drive racial and economic injustice in our communities.
While PUSH Buffalo did not organize yesterday’s rally, we continue to support the people’s right to protest against police brutality, against the militarization of our local police departments, and against injustice everywhere. We stand in solidarity with others locally in calling for an immediate de-escalation of police aggression in Buffalo and an end to local curfews that deny us our basic rights to free speech and freedom of expression. We also call on elected leadership in Buffalo to defund the police. Yesterday, the Buffalo Common Council voted to approve an increase in the police budget while making cuts to other vital services. That ain’t right!
As the current situation evolves, we are hoping and praying that Martin undergoes a healthy and speedy recovery. Our thoughts and support are with Martin and his family–and every person impacted by police brutality, who Martin was there for–at this very serious time.
At this time PUSH Buffalo will not be fielding any interview requests.”
Gov. Andrew Cuomo tweeted about the incident on Thursday night, calling it “wholly unjustified and utterly disgraceful”.
Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul responded the next morning.
Representative Brian Higgins shared a statement on Friday morning, as well.
“The completely unwarranted use of force by police in front of Buffalo City Hall last night is a call to action for our city and country.
Videos are exposing unchecked bad actors and the painful truth of what has been happening in our communities for far too long.
George Floyd’s murder has led to a nationwide outcry for change. This unacceptable incident right here in our community — and others across the country in the wake of this tragedy — shows how widespread and urgent of a change is needed.
The House of Representatives will soon release a legislative package led by the Congressional Black Caucus addressing equal justice and police brutality. There is clearly much work to do. I am eager to work with my colleagues to advance these measures swiftly.”Rep. Brian Higgins
During a Twitter exchange Thursday night, New York State Attorney General Letitia James said that her office is aware of the video.
State Attorney General Letitia James followed up last night’s tweet by releasing a statement Friday afternoon:
The video captured on June 4th shows what appears to be a horrific display of abuse and lack of concern for New Yorkers by the Buffalo Police Department. My office supports the investigation by the Erie County District Attorney’s Office, and we stand by ready to assist should they need it.”New York State Attorney General Letitia James
U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer spoke about the incident in a statement late Thursday night, saying, “The video was deeply disturbing and the actions taken were wrong. We need a prompt investigation and full accountability.”
The New York Civil Liberties Union also denounced the incident, saying:
We have received word from U.S. Attorney James Kennedy Friday morning regarding the incident. He says:
Last night, after seeing the video of the incident occurring in front of City Hall, I was concerned and immediately contacted both BPD Commissioner Lockwood and FBI Acting SAC Guyton. The officers involved have been suspended pending further investigation. On behalf of the entire law enforcement community, I offer our sincere best wishes to the injured gentleman, as we hope and pray for his speedy and complete recovery. As a community and as a nation, we must resist the urge to react impetuously. Rather, as we struggle with the disturbing events depicted on that video, I suggest that we reflect on the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, who said: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction…. The chain reaction of evil—hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars—must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation.”U.S. Attorney James Kennedy
Four people were arrested on disorderly conduct charges Thursday night for blocking traffic in the area. A fifth was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct during a skirmish involving protesters.
Other than the arrests and the injury, the protest was peaceful.
The city’s curfew is in effect until 5 a.m. It’s in effect every day from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. through and including Sunday.