(WIVB)–While the country has been in turmoil over the past few weeks, it’s been nine days since an incident involving a 75-year-old man shown pushed by two police officers added Buffalo to the national conversation.
“It was horrific. I was very worried for his health. Immediately praying, but then had to reach out very quickly to the management of the Buffalo Police Department to try and made sense of what I had seen, ” said Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown.
75-year-old Martin Gugino is still in the hospital with a fractured skull. Brown defended the city spokesperson, whose initial press release painted an incomplete picture.
CBS Morning News reporter Jeff Glor asked Brown what happened in the initial communication process where it was said that he tripped and fell.
“Well, what I would like to say and what people are missing is that people in every single profession can make a mistake, and that mistake doesn’t mean that an intention to mislead is what occurred. Again, everything was moving very quickly,” Brown said.
Both officers in the incident are suspended without pay and charged with assault.In the fallout, the entire police department’s emergency response team resigned from their roles in that group.
“We lost that unit because of a threat from the Buffalo PBA. They got a bulletin from the union saying ‘if you perform these duties as a member of that unit, you will not receive coverage from the union.’ and I think that is unconscionable, Brown said.
The PBA president says the decision to resign was up to each individual officer.
But an email to union members, which has been widely circulated, suggests to members that the PBA may not cover legal fees for members sued for actions related to protests.
Then, last week, Mayor Brown announced police reform policies, including ticketing, not arresting, low-level offenders.
Glor asked Brown why it took the death of George Floyd to get here.
Brown says it was the boiling point of a scene played out over and over again, from Eric Garner to Amhad Arbrey.
“They all have been distressing. This took on a life of its own that’s been played over and over and over again. When my family and I first watched that together, there were tears in my house. I almost feel it now, just thinking about it.”
Asked by Glor if healing and reforming may take longer than people expect, Brown said yes.
“It’s a process that has to be approached with a listening ear, with an open heart, and with great urgency.”
Erica Brecher is an anchor and reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2018. See more of her work here.