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Two Buffalo, NY police officers have been cleared of wrongdoing for pushing a 75-year-old man to the ground during a protest in June 2020.
Footage showed officers Aaron Torgalski and Robert McCabe pushing 75-year-old activist Martin Gugino to the ground as they were clearing space outside the local town hall. The clip soon went viral across the country amid the George Floyd protests as a blatant example of police abuse of force.
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Torgalski and McCabe were then suspended and charged with second-degree assault, charges that were dropped after a grand jury inquest. A referee has now acquitted four charges against the two men.
“Upon review, there is no evidence to support the claim that respondents (police officers) had any viable options other than getting Gugino out of the way,” referee Jeffrey Selchick wrote, according to the Buffalo News.
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Footage shows Gugino motionless on the ground after the incident as a pool of blood formed under his head. It would be weeks before he recovered from the incident, and he sued the city soon after.
According to Melissa Wischerath, an attorney representing Gugino, Gugino’s lawsuit is unaffected by Friday’s umpire’s decision
“We are not aware of any instance where this referee has ruled against duty police officers, so his decision here on behalf of the police was not only awaited by us, but certainly by the union and the city who selected and paid him,” he said Wischerath to Buffalo News.
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Both Torgalski and McCabe returned to regular duty Monday.