A former FBI agent who trained Buffalo police officers said the 75-year-old protester who was hospitalized after a riot officer pushed him before he fell backward “got away lightly.”
“If that would have been a 40-year-old guy going up there, I guarantee you they’d have been all over him,” retired FBI agent, Gary DiLaura, was quoted by the New York Post as saying.
The elderly protester “absolutely got away lightly,” DiLaura said. “He got a light push and in my humble opinion, he took a dive and the dive backfired because he hit his head. Maybe it’ll knock a little bit of sense into him.”
The former federal official trained police on how to use firearms and defensive tactics.
“These cops were acting how they have been trained to act. There’s no way they are going to be convicted of assault,” DiLaura said.
The protester was later identified as Martin Gugino, who was seen on camera approaching riot police. Officers are heard telling him to move back before one of them pushes him before he stumbles backward and falls. He was hospitalized and now has a brain injury, his attorney later confirmed.
Officers are then seen walking past him amid confusion and yelling. After approximately 10 seconds, what appear to be medics came to render aid to him.
The two officers, identified in reports as Aaron Torgalski and Robert McCabe, were both charged with second-degree assault and were suspended.
“As most of you know, Martin is a soft-spoken but thoughtful and principled man. As heartbreaking as it is, his brain is injured and he is well aware of that now,” attorney Kelly Zarcone said in a statement to several news outlets.
Gugino is “encouraged and uplifted by the outpouring of support which he has received from so many people all over the globe,” Zarcone said. “It helps. He is looking forward to healing and determining what his ‘new normal’ might look like.”
Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown had told news outlets this week that Gugino was “asked to leave numerous times … 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,” said Brown.
On Wednesday, Brown told reporters that reforms would be coming to the city’s police force.
“I am not in favor of defunding the police department,” Brown said in an afternoon news conference, according to the Buffalo News. “But I am in strong favor of reforming the police department.”