Elderly protester suffers brain injury after being shoved by US police officers

The elderly man who was shoved to the ground by police at a protest in New York has suffered a brain injury and is facing “a new normal,” his lawyer said.

The video of 75-year-old Martin Gugino being pushed at a protest on 4 June outside City Hall in Buffalo became one of the most-viewed examples of police violence related to US-wide protests sparked by the death of George Floyd.

Mr Gugino, a social justice activist, has been hospitalised since the incident, which lead to charges of second-degree assault and suspension without pay for Buffalo officers Robert McCabe, 32, and Aaron Torgalski, 39.

Both officers have pleaded not guilty.

The elderly man approaches the officers at the beginning of the clip
Image:The elderly man approaches the officers at the beginning of the clip

On Thursday, Mr Gugino’s lawyer, Kelly V Zarcone, said she had spoken with him, and he was feeling better and “starting physical therapy today which is definitely a step in the right direction.”

But, Ms Zarcone said: “As heartbreaking as it is, his brain is injured and he is well aware of that now.”

For that reason, she said, he wasn’t interested in doing media interviews at this point, but he “feels encouraged and uplifted by the outpouring of support which he has received from so many people all over the globe.”

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“It helps,” Ms Zarcone said. “He is looking forward to healing and determining what his ‘new normal’ might look like.”

Ms Zarcone added that Gugino was “a soft spoken but thoughtful and principled man.”

An entire tactical unit of a US police department has resigned in support of two officers who were filmed shoving a 75-year-old protester to the ground in Buffalo.
Image:An entire tactical unit of a US police department has resigned in support of two officers who were filmed shoving the man

Friends told Religion News Service that Mr Gugino is a devout Catholic and retired computer programmer who has long worked to advocate for the poor, disenfranchised, and on behalf of Black Lives Matter.

On 4 June, he was at a protest in Buffalo when he approached a large group of officers in tactical gear before saying something, video shows.

The officers yell for him to move back before one or two appear to push him before he falls backward, slams his head and then lay bleeding and motionless on the ground.

One of the officers appears to lean over and say something to Mr Gugino on the ground before another officer pulls him back and they march past him.

The incident occurred shortly after the city’s curfew of 8pm on Thursday, NBC affiliate WGRZ in Buffalo reported.

Buffalo police initially said the man tripped and fell, but video revealed the reality.

Blood was seen spilling from the man's head in the graphic video
Image:Blood was seen spilling from the man’s head in the graphic video

After the suspension of the two officers, but prior to their being charged, 57 members of the Buffalo Police Department’s Emergency Response team quit that unit in solidarity with their colleagues.

New York governor Andrew Cuomo condemned the officers’ actions on the day after the incident.

Mr Cuomo said he spoke with Mr Gugino and that the incident “disturbs our basic sense of decency and humanity.”

“Why, why? Why was that necessary?” Mr Cuomo said. “Where was the threat? Older gentleman, where was the threat? Then you just walk by the person when you see blood coming from his head?”

President Donald Trump suggested Mr Gugino was an “ANTIFA provocateur.”

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The people of America are saying they’ve had enough – this time it feels different

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He tweeted on Tuesday: “Buffalo protester shoved by Police could be an ANTIFA provocateur. 75 year old Martin Gugino was pushed away after appearing to scan police communications in order to black out the equipment. @OANN I watched, he fell harder than was pushed. Was aiming scanner. Could be a set up?”

Mr Trump’s claims appeared to have referenced a conspiracy theory that aired on Tuesday morning on One America News Network, a far-right cable news channel. The theory was originally posted to an anonymous conservative blog.

Mark Gibson

Graduates in Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois 1990. Move to Los Angeles California in 2004. Specialized in Internet journalism.

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