Two suspended Buffalo police officers were charged with second-degree assault Saturday amid outcry over video showing officers shoving a 75-year-old man to the ground at a demonstration over the death of George Floyd, prosecutors said.
Robert McCabe and Aaron Torgalski pleaded not guilty to the charges and were released without bail, Erie County District Attorney John Flynn said in a news conference. The two men were expected back in court July 20 for a felony hearing.
If convicted on the charge, the officers face a maximum sentence of seven years in prison.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Saturday applauded the work of Buffalo Mayor Bryon Brown and the district attorney after saying Friday that the officers should be fired.
“I think there was criminal liability from what I saw on the video,” Cuomo said at a briefing Saturday. “I think what the mayor did and the district attorney did was right, and I applaud them for acting as quickly as they did.”
He added: “What we saw was horrendous and disgusting, and I believe, illegal.”
All 57 of the members of the Buffalo Police Department’s Emergency Response Team resigned from the unit Friday after the two officers were suspended. The unit members have not quit the police department but have stepped down from the tactical unit.
Brown released a statement saying that the city was aware of “developments related to the work assignments of certain members of the Buffalo police force” and that contingency plans were in place to ensure public safety.
Asked about the resigning officers at a press conference Friday afternoon, Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz he would be “disappointed” if they had in fact resigned.
“If they resigned, I’m exceptionally disappointed by it because it indicates to me that they did not see anything wrong with the actions last night,” Poloncarz said.
Martin Gugino, the man who was pushed to the ground, was in “serious but stable condition. He is alert and oriented,” attorney Kelly V. Zarcone said in an emailed statement.