Two Buffalo police officers were justified in pushing a 75-year-old activist who suffered a skull fracture, an arbitrator ruled nearly two years after the incident.
Officers Robert McCabe and Aaron Torgalsk had no other course of action than to push away an approaching Martin Gugino, 75, when he objected to a protest curfew.
Gugino had been protesting police on June 4, 2020, just days after the death of George Floyd.
“Upon review, there is no evidence to sustain any claim that respondents [police officers] had any other viable options other than to move Gugino out of the way of their forward movement,” arbitrator Jeffrey Selchick wrote in the decision, the Washington Examiner reported.
Selchick weighed whether the officers violated the police department’s use-of-force rules. He ruled that force was justified as Gugino was approaching and refusing to comply with orders.
“The use of force employed by respondents reflected no intent on their part to do more than to move Gugino away from them,” the ruling read, the Examiner reported.
Video of the incident went viral amid the hotly protested Floyd riots of the summer of 2020. It showed Gugino lunging at police before being pushed back, hitting his head on the sidewalk.
According to the report, Gugino was hospitalized from June 4-30 for a fractured skull and brain injury.
McCabe and Torgalsk were suspended and charged with second-degree assault, but a grand jury declined to indict the officers on Feb. 11, 2021. They will be reinstated Monday, according to the Buffalo police commissioner.
Gugino is suing Buffalo, alleging a violation of his “constitutional rights” and the officers using “unlawful and unnecessary force.”
“We are not aware of any case where this arbitrator has ruled against on-duty police officers, so his ruling here on behalf of the police was not only expected by us but was certainly expected by the union and city who selected and paid him,” Gugino’s attorney told The Buffalo News.
Then-President Donald Trump tweeted Gugino was an “Antifa provocateur” days after the incident, claiming Gugino did not deny it, saying only, “No comment other than Black Lives Matter.”