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Two Buffalo police officers suspended after incident in Niagara Square that left protester injured

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Posted at 9:30 PM, Jun 04, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-05 19:32:23-04

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Our 7 Eyewitness News crew at the scene witnessed officers removing protesters in the area of City Hall after the 8 p.m. curfew.

While clearing Niagara Square, a 75-year-old man was injured. Police say he fell, but Mayor Byron Brown has since said he was "knocked down" by Buffalo police officers. Video captured by WBFO shows an officer pushing the man. Based on what we see in that video, the officer's last name is "Torgalski."

7 Eyewitness News went through police records, obtained by the I-Team, and we've identified him as Aaron Torgalski. Those records show he's been on the force since 2014 and would be on the force six years this August.

WARNING: This video is graphic.

A 7 Eyewitness News reporter captured video showing the aftermath of the incident. Protesters can be heard reacting to the man's fall.

The man was taken to ECMC, where he is in serious by stable condition as of Friday morning. The man has been identified by a fellow protester as Martin Gugino.

PUSH Buffalo says Gugino has been a long-time member of their organization and released a statement Friday afternoon which said in part:

"We are shocked to hear about and witness the serious injuries suffered by a protester at yesterday’s peaceful demonstration against police violence in downtown Buffalo. The protester, long-time PUSH Buffalo member Martin Gugino, has been a tireless fighter against injustice of all types for many years in our city both with PUSH and other grassroots organizations. He has joined us in the struggle for a just transition from the corporate controlled, undemocratic, and militarized systems of oppression that drive racial and economic injustice in our communities."

Erie County District Attorney John Flynn now says his office is investigating the incident. Flynn's office says the man was unable to provide a statement to investigators last night. According to Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz, as of Friday morning, the man is "alert and oriented."

7 Eyewitness News has learned Buffalo Police Commissioner Byron Lockwood has ordered the suspension of the officers involved in the incident.

Shortly after 11 p.m., Mayor Byron Brown released the following statement:

Tonight, after a physical altercation between two separate groups of protesters participating in an illegal demonstration beyond the curfew, two Buffalo Police officers knocked down a 75-year-old man. The victim is in stable but serious condition at ECMC. I was deeply disturbed by the video, as was Buffalo Police Commissioner Byron Lockwood. He directed an immediate investigation into the matter, and the two officers have been suspended without pay. After days of peaceful protests and several meetings between myself, Police leadership and members of the community, tonight’s event is disheartening. I hope to continue to build on the progress we have achieved as we work together to address racial injustice and inequity in the City of Buffalo. My thoughts are with the victim tonight.
-Mayor Byron Brown

Governor Andrew Cuomo also responded to the incident on Twitter.

According to police, four people were arrested for disorderly conduct charges for blocking traffic. Another person was arrested during a "skirmish with other protesters" and was also charged with disorderly conduct.

The curfew in the City of Buffalo is in effect from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. through and including Sunday.