New York Police Officers Suspended After Pushing 75-Year-Old Protester to Ground

June 5, 2020 Updated: June 5, 2020

Two New York police officers have been suspended without pay after they were caught on camera pushing a 75-year-old protester to the ground, causing what appeared to be a head injury.

In video footage captured by local public radio station WBFO, the 75-year-old protester can be seen walking towards a line of Buffalo Police Department officers in riot gear, before he is shoved by one officer with a baton, and another who pushes him with his hand.

He falls back to the ground, the video shows, and his head hits the sidewalk. Shortly later, he appears unresponsive and blood can be seen trickling onto the ground. It is unclear whether the man spoke with the officers before he was pushed.

“He’s bleeding from his ears!” a bystander can be heard shouting in the background. “Get a medic!” another says.

WBFO reported that police initially said a man was injured after tripping and falling. However, Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said Buffalo Police Commissioner Byron Lockwood ordered an investigation into the incident and suspended the two offending officers after viewing the footage.

Shortly after the incident, Brown said in a statement that he was “deeply disturbed” by the footage. “After days of peaceful protests and several meetings between myself, police leadership and members of the community, tonight’s event is disheartening.”

He said the 75-year-old was hospitalized and is in “serious but stable” condition at Erie County Medical Center Hospital.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on Twitter that he had discussed the “wholly unjustified and utterly disgraceful” incident with Mayor Brown.

“We agree that the officers involved should be immediately suspended pending a formal investigation,” Cuomo wrote. “Police Officers must enforce—NOT ABUSE—the law.”

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncartz tweeted that the 75-year-old is “expected to recover,” but noted that the two officers “…must be held responsible for their actions, not just fired.”

“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,” he said. “It sickens me. I’ve confirmed he is at ECMC in stable condition. My thoughts are with him now.”

Protests over the death of George Floyd continued into their tenth night on Thursday. Floyd, 46, died last week in police custody in Minneapolis after an officer kneeled on his neck for nearly nine minutes.

The police officer who was seen kneeling on the man’s neck, Derek Chauvin, on Tuesday had his charges upgraded from third-degree murder, to second-degree murder charges. Under Minnesota law, second-degree murder is defined as when a person intentionally causes the death of another person without premeditation.

Attorney General William Barr said on Thursday authorities have made 51 arrests for federal crimes related to violent rioting amid the recent protests.

Barr said authorities are seeing “three different sets of actors” at the demonstrations—peaceful protesters exercising their First Amendment rights, groups exploiting the opportunity to engage in looting, and extremists agitators who have “hijacked” the protests to pursue their own agendas. He said that there is evidence that the last group is to be blamed for the violent activity.

Janita Kan contributed to this report.