Elderly protester in viral video sues after charges dropped for NY cops

Geoff Herbert


BUFFALO, N.Y. — Buffalo protester Martin Gugino is suing the city, its police department, and its mayor after charges were dropped against two cops who shoved him during a Black Lives Matter rally last year.

WKBW reports Gugino, 75, filed a civil lawsuit Monday against the City of Buffalo, Mayor Byron Brown, Police Commissioner Byron Lockwood, Deputy Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia, and Officers Robert McCabe, Aaron Torgalski, and John Losi. The suit accuses the defendants of violating Gugino’s constitutional rights and alleges forcible assault without warning by officers McCabe, Torgalski and Losi.

Gugino made national news in June when two Buffalo Police officers, McCabe and Torgalski, pushed him to the ground outside Buffalo City Hall. Video showing Gugino motionless and bleeding from the ear quickly went viral; outrage ensued as the Buffalo Police Department claimed in a statement he “tripped & fell.” Gugino was released from the hospital nearly a month later after suffering a fractured skull and brain injury.

The lawsuit accuses the cops of shoving him to the ground without warning and the other defendants of attempting to conceal their conduct. Gugino also says his rights to freedom of speech, peaceful assembly, petition the government for redress of grievance, movement, unreasonable seizures and freedom from the unlawful use of force by government agents, and to due process of law were violated.

Gugino’s attorneys are seeking a jury trial.

Torgalski and McCabe were charged with second-degree assault and suspended without pay shortly after the incident. The case was dropped when a grand jury declined to indict the BPD officers on felony assault charges, Erie County District Attorney John Flynn said last week.

“These were not two especially bad officers, the whole system is wrong. They’re all taught to do the wrong thing. That’s the problem that needs to be fixed,” Gugino said in October.

Gugino, a longtime peace activist from Amherst, is a member of two nonprofits: PUSH Buffalo, which focuses on affordable housing, and the Western New York Peace Center, a human rights organization. He is also part of the Catholic Worker Movement and politically active on social media, frequently criticizing former President Donald Trump.

Gugino was also a part of Upstate Drone Action, a group that has protested the use of armed drones at Syracuse Hancock Airbase for a decade. Gugino attended at least one of the group’s protests and was known for his dependable, quiet presence at many of the group members’ court appearances.

(c)2021 Syracuse Media Group, N.Y.

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