Upstate New York protester Martin Gugino, who suffered a fractured skull after being shoved to the ground by two Buffalo police officers during a Black Lives Matter protest last year, is suing the police, the city and the mayor.
Attorneys for Gugino, 75, on Monday filed the lawsuit in federal court, claiming that the man’s constitutional rights to freedom of speech, peaceful assembly and due process, among others, were violated during the incident that took place outside Buffalo City Hall on June 4. It also alleges forcible assault without warning by police officers.
The complaint names as defendants the City of Buffalo, Mayor Byron Brown, Police Commissioner Byron Lockwood, Deputy Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia, and police officers Robert McCabe, Aaron Torgalski, and John Losi.
Scroll down for video
Black Lives Matter protester Martin Gugino, 75, on Monday filed a lawsuit in federal court claiming his constitutional rights were violated when he was shoved by cops
Gugino was pushed to the ground in front of Buffalo City Hall in New York on June 4
Officers walked past as the 75-year-old lay on the ground, visibly bleeding from his ear
Viral video captured the moment McCabe and Torgalski pushed Gugino to the ground and left him lying on the sidewalk with blood pouring from his right ear.
The lawsuit alleges that the third officer named as a defendant in the complaint, Losi, was the one who instructed McCabe and Torgalski to shove him, as the rest of the police team ‘yelled out in chorus, “push him, push him.”‘
Gugino suffered a fractured skull and spent four weeks in the hospital recovering from his injury.
In the aftermath of the protest, McCabe and Torgalski were charged with felony assault counts and suspended without pay, but earlier this month a grand jury dismissed the charges.
‘If the roles were reversed, and Gugino pushed a BPD officer who then fractured his skull, he would have been immediately indicted, and for good reason,’ plaintiff’s attorney Richard Weisbeck said in a news release.
Gugino’s lawsuit accuses the officers of pushing him without warning while enforcing what they described as an unconstitutional 8pm curfew that had been imposed by the mayor, and the other defendants of trying to cover it up, reported Buffalo News.
In the complaint, Gugino also argues that his rights to petition the government for redress of grievance, movement, unreasonable seizures and freedom from the unlawful use of force by government agents, were violated.
The lawsuit seeks a jury trial and unspecified monetary damages ‘in an amount sufficient to punish them and deter others from similar conduct,’ reported NBC News.
Buffalo police initially said in a statement that a person ‘was injured when he tripped and fell,’ but following an outcry Captain Jeff Rinaldo announced that an internal affairs investigation was opened, and Mayor Brown went on television to reassure the public that it was not their intention to mislead anyone.
Torgalski and McCabe are still suspended, pending an internal inquiry, WIVB reported, although they are now back on the pay roll.
Gugino said in October that he was fine, although he was left with permanent damage to his ear.
‘Look, I’m up, got a cane, no problem. I’m good,’ he said. ‘The city is not good.
‘These were not two especially bad officers. The whole system is wrong.
Aaron Torgalski (left) and Robert McCabe were cleared by a grand jury on Thursday
Martin Gugino, 75, suffered a fractured skull when he was shoved by two police on June 4
‘The curfew is wrong. Mayor [Byron] Brown needs to be taught what the First Amendment means. The chief of police, whatever training he gave these guys is not right.
‘You are allowed to protest on the sidewalk. Protest is the American way.’
Gugino was asked if he saw the video of the incident.
‘I didn’t see it until a few days later. I thought, ‘Wow. That’s not good,” he recalled.
He said there was no justification for what happened to him.
‘Fall down, hit your head, blood comes out of your ear, carted off unconscious – there’s no reason for that,’ he said.
John Evans, president of the Buffalo Police Benevolent Association, said earlier this month they were pleased with the grand jury’s decision to not indict the officers, and argued Torgalski and McCabe were simply following orders.
‘As we have stated all along, Officers McCabe and Torgalski were simply following departmental procedures and the directives of their superiors to clear Niagara Square despite working under extremely challenging circumstances.’