57 New York officers resign from special squad over suspension of 2 who shoved 75-year-old

Fifty-seven members of the Buffalo Police Department resigned from a special squad Friday to protest the suspension of two officers shown on video shoving a 75-year-old protester to the ground, causing him to hit his head on the sidewalk and suffer a serious injury, officials said.

The footage, shot by local NPR affiliate WBFO on Thursday evening, shows the man walking up to uniformed officers in Buffalo’s Niagara Square during an anti-police-brutality demonstration after George Floyd’s death. The officers, who had begun enforcing curfew, yell what sounds like “move!” and “push him back!” One officer can be seen pushing the man with an outstretched arm, while another shoves a baton into him. A third officer appears to shove colleagues toward the man.

The man falls to the ground. His head whips backward onto the pavement, and then he lies motionless.

“He’s bleeding out of his ear!” someone yells as blood pools beneath the man’s head.

The officers then keep walking, leaving the man on the ground, before two state police officers step in to render aid.

On Friday, the police department’s entire emergency response team resigned from the squad in protest of their colleagues’ suspension, according to several local news reports. The team was formed in 2016 to respond to civic unrest.

“Fifty-seven resigned in disgust because of the treatment of two of their members, who were simply executing orders,” Buffalo Police Benevolent Association president John Evans told WGRZ.

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said at a news conference Friday that he was “exceptionally disappointed” by the resignations.

“It indicates to me that they did not see anything wrong with the actions last night, which I think each of us in this room found something wrong with, as well as our governor, the mayor and millions of people across the country — and, for that matter, the world,” he said.

The 75-year-old man, identified as Martin Gugino by the group People United for Sustainable Housing Buffalo, was taken to a hospital after his fall and was in “stable but serious condition,” Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said. Buffalo police spokesman Capt. Jeff Rinaldo said he believes the man’s injuries include a laceration and “possible concussion,” while Poloncarz said it was a “serious head injury.”

Buffalo Police Commissioner Byron Lockwood launched an internal affairs investigation into the officers after seeing the video, Rinaldo said. He declined to identify the officers who were suspended without pay.

Video of the incident provoked widespread condemnation online, as police in cities across the country fall under intensifying scrutiny for using excessive force against peaceful protesters. Poloncarz said the incident “sickened me,” while New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) called the incident “fundamentally offensive and frightening.”

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