New York police officers plead not guilty to assaulting 75-year-old man at protest

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BUFFALO, N.Y. — Two suspended police officers pleaded not guilty Saturday to assaulting a 75-year-old man during a protest against racism and police brutality.

Both were charged with one count of assault in the second degree. They have been released on their own recognizance without bail.

The officers — identified by the Erie County District Attorney’s Office as Aaron Torgalski, 39, and Robert McCabe, 32 –were arraigned via video conference and had the same attorney. The officers, who were with the Police Department’s Emergency Response Team, are scheduled to appear in court again July 20.

CNN is attempting to reach Torgalski and McCabe for comment.

Video from a demonstration Thursday in Buffalo shows two officers pushing Martin Gugino back. He falls to the sidewalk, where his head bleeds. The officers and others then walk by him, some looking down at him as they pass.

Gugino was hospitalized with a head injury.

The officers turned themselves in Saturday morning, Erie County District Attorney John Flynn said in a news conference after the arraignment.

Flynn said he was prepared to charge the officers on Friday, but he “didn’t want to pour gasoline on the fire” after he learned 57 officers resigned from the Emergency Response Team on Friday in support of the suspended officers.

Flynn was concerned about the safety of the city, protesters and the officers Friday night.

“I was generally concerned about what could potentially happen if I did this yesterday afternoon and there wasn’t enough security downtown,” he said, “so I decided to do it this morning.”

Asked how the officers should have responded to a 75-year-old protester, Flynn said, “You don’t crack a skull on the concrete.” If the man was doing something illegal, he should have been arrested, Flynn said.

“You don’t take a baton and shove, along with the officer next to him,” and knock him down and “crack his head,” Flynn said.

Flynn’s comments came after Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Friday the officers should be fired and prosecutors should move “fairly but quickly.”

“When I saw the video, I got sick to my stomach,” Cuomo said. “I would encourage the district attorney not to do what happened in Minneapolis, which the delay itself caused issues. People don’t want vaguery. They are upset and want answers.”

Mayor Byron Brown told CNN’s Chris Cuomo on Friday night that he was told that emergency response team officers are trained to keep moving forward.

“Embedded with them are medics, officers with first-aid training,” he said. “The medics were just behind the first line unit that continued to move forward, and within seconds, the medics rendered first-aid assistance.”

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