Arbitrator clears Buffalo officers who pushed elderly activist to ground

Gugino was "clearly" a suspect who "deliberately positioned himself in front of Respondents," the arbitrator wrote.
Law enforcement rope off a crime scene

Two Buffalo, New York, police officers have been cleared by an arbitrator of wrongdoing after they were accused of using unnecessary force against an elderly protester nearly two years ago.

The 75-year-old protester, Martin Gugino, "was acting in an erratic fashion" and "preventing the forward movement of the Response Team, after not complying with the directive to move back," arbitrator Jeffrey Selchick wrote in a 43-page decision last week. 

He ruled that the Buffalo officers, Robert McCabe and Aaron Torgalski, acted in their own protection and "did not have any 'viable option' to have some type of non-physical communication with Gugino."

Prosecutors dropped criminal charges against the officers in February 2021, Just the News reported.

In June 2020, during the height of the George Floyd protests, video surfaced appearing to show Gugino walking in front of a police tactical unit. When officers shoved him out of the way, the elderly activist fell back and hit his head, reportedly fracturing his skull.

One officer claimed Gugino kept saying "you might as well take me to jail now because I'm not leaving here, I'm going to jail one way or the other."

McCabe said he used "minor" force and was surprised when Gugino fell. 

"Though lawfully subpoenaed, Mr. Gugino refused to appear and give testimony in this proceeding," the arbitrator noted.

Gugino was "clearly" a suspect who "deliberately positioned himself in front of Respondents" while breaking the city's curfew, Selchick added.

Gugino's attorney Melissa Wischerath told The Epoch Times that they are "not surprised by the ruling."

"We are not aware of any case where this arbitrator has ruled against on-duty police officers so his ruling here on behalf of the police was not only expected by us, but was certainly expected by the union and city who selected and paid him," she said.

Buffalo police union president John Evans celebrated the ruling.

"I’m grateful arbitrator Selchick saw through this and made the decision he did," Evans told The Epoch Times.

"I wish there was a way to repair these officers reputations because they are great guys who did not deserve the mistreatment they have," he added.

The officers will be reinstated, a city official said.

Gugino is still in meditation after he sued Buffalo following the incident. His attorney said the arbitrator’s decision will not affect that case.