BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Both suspended Buffalo Police officers, seen shoving a protester to the ground in a viral video are now criminally accused of a crime.
Officers Aaron Torgalski, 39, and Robert McCabe, 32, turned themselves in Saturday morning. They had their first court hearing virtually and the judge released them. They each face a single charged of second degree assault, a felony. The max sentence if convicted is up to seven years in prison.
The two officers were shielded by supporters as they left the district attorney’s office Saturday morning. But Saturday, we saw the pictures of Buffalo Police Officers Aaron Torgalski and Robert McCabe. They were suspended without pay Thursday night, just hours after the incident in front of Buffalo City Hall.
They’re seen on video clearing the area appearing to push Martin Gugino, a protester in his 70s to the ground. He had to be taken to the hospital and was still in serious but stable condition yesterday according to his attorney.
The incident happened about a dozen minutes after a curfew set in.
“You take him away and arrest him. Simple as that. You don’t take a baton and shove him along with the officer next to him using his right hand, shoving him,” said District Attorney John Flynn.
When discussing this case today, Flynn drew parallels to the case of Kenneth Achtyl, a then-Erie County Sheriff’s Deputy who was charged with misdemeanor assault after an incident at a 2017 Bills game. Achtyl was found guilty last year.
Flynn says the case involving Torgalski and McCabe involves the same assault allegation as the Achtyl case, with one key difference making this charge a felony.
“There happens to be a specific penal law subsection that says if the victim is 65 years or older and the perpetrator is 10 years younger, that makes it a felony,” Flynn said.
Among the group of supporters for the officers on Saturday was Buffalo PBA president John Evans.
“(This is) totally unwarranted. It’s overcharged. It’s ridiculous. The problem here is the (district attorney) is a politician,” Evans said
Flynn admitted he’s a politician, but said he’s not overcharging. Next, this case will go to a grand jury. But it’s unclear when that might happen. Grand juries are not convening right now because of COVID-19.
Gugino’s attorney said the man had no comment on these charges.
Chris Horvatits is an award-winning anchor and reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2017. See more of his work here.