The mayor of Buffalo, New York, described the video showing police in the city shoving protester Martin Gugino as “horrific” but that “people in every single profession can make a mistake.”
A video of the incident recorded earlier this month showed Gugino approaching riot police during a protest in the Western New York city as officers told him to move before one pushed the elderly man. He then appeared to stumble backward and hit the ground.
His lawyer, Kelly Zarcone, stated that Gugino suffered a brain injury but is “encouraged and uplifted by the outpouring of support which he has received from so many people all over the globe.”
Mayor Byron Brown said that law enforcement officers are trained to use common sense while on duty: “I don’t believe common sense was used” in Gugino’s case.
Speaking to CBS News, Brown said when he saw the video of Gugino being pushed, he was “immediately praying.”
“I immediately thought about: Is he gonna be okay?” he said. “But then had to reach out very quickly to the management of the Buffalo Police Department to try to make sense of what I had seen.”
An initial police report said that Gugino tripped and fell, but it was later corrected after the video footage emerged.
Brown, however, suggested that the officers didn’t try to deliberately harm Gugino, who is 75.
The situation was “moving very quickly,” Brown told CBS. “People in every single profession can make a mistake, and that mistake doesn’t mean that an intention to mislead is what occurred.”
After two officers were suspended over the incident, the Buffalo Police Department’s special response unit resigned, which Brown believes was due to pressure from their union.
“They got a bulletin from their union saying that if you perform these duties as a member of that unit, you will not receive coverage from the union,” Brown said.
Brown previously told news outlets that Gugino was told by riot police to leave the area several times, while noting there was a curfew in effect.
“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,” said Brown.
Medics attended to the man “within seconds” of him falling on the ground, the mayor added.
“We saw violence, we saw vandalism, we saw fires being set, we saw looting, we saw rioting,” Brown said. “And I imposed a curfew for eight o’clock to prevent that kind of violence and danger to our community.”
Last week, Gugino said via his lawyer that he’s “encouraged and uplifted by the outpouring of support which he has received from so many people all over the globe” after he was diagnosed with a brain injury.
“It helps. He is looking forward to healing and determining what his ‘new normal’ might look like,” he said.