BUFFALO, N.Y.—Two Buffalo police officers were charged with assault on Saturday, prosecutors said. The charges came after a video showed them shoving a 75-year-old protester in recent demonstrations over the death of George Floyd in Minnesota.
Both pleaded not guilty to second-degree assault. They were released without bail.
The officers had been suspended without pay Friday after a TV-crew captured the confrontation the night before near the end of protests.
The footage shows a man identified as Martin Gugino approaching a line of helmeted officers holding batons as they clear demonstrators from Niagara Square around the time of an 8 p.m. curfew.
Two officers push Gugino backward, and he hits his head on the pavement. Blood spills as officers walk past. One officer leans down to check on the injured man before another officer urges the colleague to keep walking.
Dozens of police officers stepped down from the department’s crowd control unit Friday, in response to their fellow officers’ suspensions.
“Fifty-seven resigned in disgust because of the treatment of two of their members, who were simply executing orders,” said John Evans, the president of the Police Benevolent Association, reported WGRZ.
The Emergency Response team was created several years ago and is deployed during riots and mass protests.
“The City of Buffalo is aware of developments related to the work assignments of certain members of the Buffalo police force. At this time, we can confirm that contingency plans are in place to maintain police services and ensure public safety within our community. The Buffalo police continue to actively work with the New York State Police and other cooperating agencies,” said Mayor Byron Brown, according to local news outlets.
Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz also issued a comment on the development.
“I’m very disappointed if they resigned. I don’t know how many individuals there are, as I said I have no oversight directly, that is no oversight over the Buffalo Police Department. My goal as county executive is to ensure the safety and welfare of the entire public. The individuals who are protesting, our general members of the public who may be not as well as our local police force, because I want each and everyone one of them to be safe in all our endeavors,” Poloncarz remarked.
The district attorney’s office “continues to investigate the incident,” officials said in a news release, but the victim could not talk to investigators Thursday night.
Jack Phillips contributed to this report.