75-Year-Old Protester Seriously Injured in Pushing Incident With Buffalo Police

June 5, 2020

    WARNING: The video below is extremely graphic in nature.

    An elderly male who was protesting in Buffalo, NY is in serious condition after a video showed police pushing him before he fell backwards and hit his head on the concrete sidewalk in front of city hall Thursday evening.

    The 75-year-old man was taken to ECMC for serious injuries and now two officers have been suspended for their actions leading up to the incident. He is currently in serious but stable condition.

    It all occurred as Buffalo Police were sweeping the area of a small group of demonstrators that remained after the 8pm curfew.

    Prior to the incident, the man could be seen facing officers as they were slowly moving toward demonstrators and multiple video accounts show the officers pushed the demonstrator before he fell.  Emergency medical attention was administered to the victim, who was conscious and visibly bleeding, and taken via ambulance for treatment.

    In an initial statement, police said that the man “tripped and fell” after a skirmish with police. Later Thursday evening, Police Commissioner Byron Lockwood said that two officers were suspended after reviewing the video, which shows the man being shoved to the ground and then walked past by officers.

    Buffalo Police Captain Jeff Rinaldo later released additional comments on the incident.

    “How the situation was being observed, it was being observed from a camera that was mounted behind the line of officers,” said Buffalo Police Captain Jeff Rinaldo. “The initial information, it appears the subject had tripped and fallen while the officers were advancing.”

    “Shortly thereafter, the department was made aware of another video from WBFO that clearly showed the officer’s arm going out and that he shoved the individual with another officer.”

    Rinaldo said that as soon as Police Commissioner Byron Lockwood saw that video, he suspended the two officers without pay.

    “I think the department was extremely quick to correct what was put out once it was discovered that it was not accurate,” Rinaldo said.

    The Erie County District Attorney is now investigating the incident.

    (You can see the incident at 9 minutes into the following video and a warning that it is GRAPHIC in nature)

    In this video perspective taken by WBFO|NPR reporter Mike Desmond, a clear view of the demonstrator as officers advance and the man is pushed to the sidewalk.

    The injured demonstrator was taken to Erie County Medical Center and was listed in serious but stable condition according to Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz.

    Mayor Byron Brown released the following statement late Thursday night:

    “Tonight, after a physical altercation between two separate groups of protesters participating in an illegal demonstration beyond the curfew, two Buffalo Police officers knocked down a 75-year-old man. The victim is in stable but serious condition at ECMC. I was deeply disturbed by the video, as was Buffalo Police Commissioner Byron Lockwood. He directed an immediate investigation into the matter, and the two officers have been suspended without pay. After days of peaceful protests and several meetings between myself, Police leadership and members of the community, tonight’s event is disheartening. I hope to continue to build on the progress we have achieved as we work together to address racial injustice and inequity in the City of Buffalo. My thoughts are with the victim tonight.”

    Poloncarz has reviewed the videos of the incident and says the man appears to have been 'shoved by police'.  "It sickens me," he says. 

    New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has seen the video and tweeted Thursday night, "This incident is wholly unjustified and utterly disgraceful."

    U.S. Senator Charles Schumer also reacted, saying, “The video was deeply disturbing and the actions taken were wrong. We need a prompt investigation and full accountability.”

    The New York Civil Liberties Union issued this statement.

    “The casual cruelty demonstrated by Buffalo police officers tonight is gut-wrenching and unacceptable. Suspensions and an investigation are already in order, but there is little more we have to see to know what took place.

    “Police officers cannot continue to hide behind the lie that they are protecting and serving. City leaders need to take this as a wake-up call and seriously address the police violence during this week’s protest and the culture of impunity that led to this incident. There is no place for military-geared police to enforce a curfew by inflicting violence on the very people they are supposed to protect.

    “We are in solidarity with Buffalo’s protesters and demand that demonstrators can protest without the threat of police brutality on the streets tomorrow."

    As a result of Thursday's demonstrations, four people were arrested on disorderly conduct charges for blocking traffic in the Square and a 5th person was arrested during a skirmish with other protestors and also charged with disorderly conduct.

    The tragic end to a day of demonstrations came after a small contingent gathered on the steps of Buffalo city hall agreed with police to peacefully leave at 8:05pm.  As most protesters slowly exited the sidewalk in front of city hall, a handful of angry demonstrators were shouting obscenities at one another and refusing to leave when Buffalo Police began to make their slow advance across Niagara Square to clear the sidewalk of those remaining.

    Demonstrations were active in Niagara Square most of the afternoon as a rally was held that featured Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown at one point who issued an order for Buffalo Police to cease any use of 'choke-hold' tactics. 

    Protesters left Niagara Square during the dinner hour and marched up the streets of Allentown and winding through the Elmwood and Delaware districts before ending their formal gathering with an eight minute moment of silence in Johnson Park. 

    Protesters march through the streets of Allentown in Buffalo

    Protesters gather in Johnson Park in Buffalo after marching the streets of Allentown

    It was following the Johnson Park demonstration when some of the protesters made their way back to city hall in advance of the 8pm curfew.

    The 8pm to 5am curfew remains in place for the city of Buffalo through Monday morning at 8am.