Aaron Torgalski has been identified through his name tag as one of the two Buffalo, New York police officers seen shoving a 75 year old man in a viral video that has been viewed millions of times.
Torgalski’s name was visible on his police badge in the video. There isn’t another Torgalski listed on the Buffalo police force. A Change.org petition demanding that Buffalo police fire Torgalski has thousands of signatures.
The elderly man was named as Martin Gugino, a peace activist. You can read more about him here. According to the Buffalo News, all 57 members of the Buffalo Police Department’s Emergency Response Team have resigned from the unit. They remain on the police force. The second officer in the video was named as Robert McCabe.
Torgalski and the other officer, Robert McCabe, were expected to be arraigned on June 6 and charged with assault.
The two officers were charged with second-degree assault and released on their own recognizance. Both pleaded not guilty; their next court date is July 20.
President Trump tweeted this on Gugino:
Buffalo’s mayor, Byron Brown, was widely by inaccurately quoted calling Gugino an “agitator” who was “trying to spark up the crowd of people,” adding, “He was in the area after the curfew. One of the things that happened before was conflict among protesters and there was a danger of fights breaking out, and police felt it was important to clear that scene for the safety of protesters.” There had been violence, looting and fires, and Brown was widely quoted as alleging that Gugino was “a key and major instigator of people engaging in those activities.”
Buffalo’s mayor, Byron Brown, called Gugino an “agitator” who was “trying to spark up the crowd of people,” adding, “He was in the area after the curfew. One of the things that happened before was conflict among protesters and there was a danger of fights breaking out, and police felt it was important to clear that scene for the safety of protesters.” There had been violence, looting and fires, and Brown alleged that Gugino was “a key and major instigator of people engaging in those activities.”
The viral video viewed more than 58 million times shows Buffalo, New York police officers shove a 75 year old man to the ground and then walk by him as he lies, bleeding from the head, on the pavement. Government salaries.com says, “Aaron Torgalski M in 2018 was employed in City Of Buffalo and had annual salary of $81,419.”
Torgalski’s LinkedIn page verifies that he’s a Buffalo police officer. The page has now been deleted.
Torgalski is registered to vote as a Republican in Erie County.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Buffalo’s mayor both released statements about the incident.
“This incident is wholly unjustified and utterly disgraceful,” Cuomo wrote. “I’ve spoken with Buffalo @MayorByronBrown and we agree that the officers involved should be immediately suspended pending a formal investigation. Police Officers must enforce — NOT ABUSE — the law.”
Earlier, there was a different scene. According to the Investigative Post, “police and protestors knelt together in the minutes leading up to the city’s 8 p.m. curfew. Some then shook hands, even hugged…” John Losi was the detective who “led the effort.” Some on Twitter have alleged that Losi appears in the shoving video, according to the Investigative Post.
Here’s what you need to know:
The Mayor Said the Two Officers Were Suspended
The Change.org petition alleges,
Aaron Torgalski pushed an elderly man who was trying to return an officers helmet he found clearly. Torgalski was clearly abusing his power as a police officer for NO REASON. Other officers were encouraging officer Torgalski to push him. The push was strong enough to make the old man fall backwards and crack his head and start bleeding. Aaron Torgalski should not be in control of our safety! This man does not deserve a badge! This man should not be allowed to hold a gun and carry out the law! Fire him! And the others invovled (sic)!!! If we get enough people to sign they can’t ignore us. They should be fired! This man makes $80,000 a year to push an old man who did not provoke him. END POLICE BRUTALITY.
The mayor, Byron W. Brown, released a 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.
The Erie County District Attorney wrote in a statement, “The Erie County DA’s Office continues to investigate the incident captured on video outside City Hall that resulted in the injury of protester. The victim was taken to ECMC to be treated for a head injury. He was unable to provide a statement to investigators last night.”
The Amherst Bee reported that Gugino “was reported to be alert and oriented, suffering from a concussion and lacerations but expected to recover.”
Mark Poloncarz, the Erie County Executive, wrote on Twitter, “I’ve spoken to @MayorByronBrown who confirmed it was members of the Buffalo Police Dept. involved in today’s incident with the protester who was pushed and hit his head. He indicated actions are being taken against two officers by BPD, which actions will be announced soon. I’ve seen videos of the incident in front of Buffalo’s City Hall in which an older protester appears to have been shoved by police, fell backwards and suffered a serious head injury. It sickens me. I’ve confirmed he is at ECMC in stable condition. My thoughts are with him now.”
WBFO-TV reported, “Just about an hour ago, police officers shove man in Niagara Square to the ground (WARNING: Graphic).” The station shared this video:
The video shows officers with face shields and batons walking down the street en masse. Officers appear to shove a man wearing a mask. He then falls down on the ground, where he lies motionless. “He’s bleeding out of his ear,” someone says, but the officers keep walking. One of the two officers has been identified because his name tag is visible in the video: Aaron Torgalski.
The man lies motionless on the pavement. Officers take another person in custody. “You better get an ambulance for him,” a person says. “We have an EMT on scene,” a man responds.
The Incident Occurred Shortly After Buffalo Instituted a Curfew
According to WBFO, the incident occurred shortly after Buffalo’s curfew went into effect. “City police and State Police swept through the area of Niagara Square directly in front of City Hall to clear the area where a protest was finishing,” the station reported. The station said the man was unidentified but he was 75 years old. He was “shoved by two officers in the line.”
The station reported that the man was in serious but stable condition at an area hospital, and Buffalo police said, “a 5th person was arrested during a skirmish with other protestors and also charged with disorderly conduct. During that skirmish involving protestors, one person was injured when he tripped & fell.”
Here’s another view:
Journalist Marlee Tuskes wrote, “From BPD Capt. Jeff Rinaldo: Internal Affairs immediately opened an investigation into the incident, ordered by Police Commissioner Byron Lockwood. State police medics rendered aid. A source tells me the man suffered from a laceration and possible concussion.” Katie Gibas, another journalist, wrote, “The gentleman has been taken away in an ambulance but appeared to be alert.”
Other Videos Have Gone Viral During the Unrest
There was a somewhat similar video earlier in Salt Lake City. That disturbing viral video shows a police officer in Salt Lake City, Utah, pushing an old man with a cane to the ground. You can watch the video here:
That incident was captured on live television.
A series of other intense videos also emerged from cities throughout the country as George Floyd protests and riots escalated into violence in some areas. For example, in Chicago there was an all-out street brawl between police officers and protesters, according to this video. In Atlanta, a video caught a bicycle officer shoving a bike at a woman. Protesters threw an American flag in a river outside Trump Tower in Chicago. In New York City, videos captured two NYPD squad cars running over protesters.