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Buffalo police officers who pushed Martin Gugino during 2020 protest cleared of wrongdoing by arbitrator

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Posted at 5:41 PM, Apr 08, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-11 09:43:44-04

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Two officers with the Buffalo Police Department have been cleared of any wrongdoing in an incident during a protest in Downtown Buffalo in June 2020 that left a 75-year-old protester injured.

Officers Aaron Torgalski and Robert McCabe will not face any further discipline after an arbitrator's decision on Friday, according to Buffalo Police Benevolent Association president John Evans.

Evans told 7 News senior reporter Eileen Buckley the arbitrator "clearly saw in no way was this an excessive force incident."

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John Evans, president, Buffalo Police Benevolent Association, in Zoom interview Friday.

"He did fall backwards, but that may have been on his own," replied Evans.

Torgalski and McCabe were initially charged with assault as a result of a confrontation between them and protester Martin Gugino in Niagara Square in June 2020. Those charges were dismissed by a grand jury in February 2021. Shortly after charges were dismissed, Gugino filed a lawsuit against the city, the police officers involved and Buffalo Police Department leadership, and Mayor Byron Brown.

The union leader says he was not surprised by the decision.

Evans says the arbitrator broke down the video that captured the incident in front of City Hall "frame by frame".

"They didn't come up with anything showed any type of excessive force whatsoever," Evans explained.

Torgalski and McCabe were two of many officers clearing the square by walking through the sidewalk area, after a curfew took effect. Video recorded by a WBFO reporter showed the officers shoving Gugino, then continuing to move forward. Gugino fell backwards and hit his head. He spent four weeks in the hospital recovering from injuries to his head.

The officers had been suspended throughout the criminal proceedings, and remained suspended pending the outcome of the internal affairs investigation.

Evans says the case is now concluded for the officers, who have remained off duty since the incident, and expects them to return to the police force.

"They've been put through hell. It will be great to see them come back," replied Gugino.

A spokesperson for the Buffalo PD said both officers are expected to return to duty next week.