ALBANY, N.Y. – Two police officers in Buffalo, New York, are suspended and a 75-year-old man is recovering in a hospital Friday after video showed the officers shoving the man to the ground.
Graphic video from WBFO shows the two officers pushing the man down as he approached them in a public square around an 8 p.m. curfew Thursday. The man stumbles back and falls, and the video shows him motionless and bleeding from his head.
Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz tweeted Friday morning that a hospital official said the man was “alert and oriented.”
“That is better news. Let’s hope he fully recovers,” Poloncarz added.
The Erie County District Attorney’s Office tweeted Friday that it was continuing its investigation of the incident and that the man was unable to provide a statement to investigators Thursday night.
The officer’s actions quickly drew condemnation from around the state, including Gov. Andrew Cuomo who said the “incident is wholly unjustified and utterly disgraceful.”
During a press briefing Friday, Cuomo played video of the incident, watching it wide-eyed before questioning the officers’ actions.
“You see that video and it disturbs your basic sense of decency and humanity,” Cuomo said.
“Why? Why? Why was that necessary? Where was the threat? It was an older gentlemen. Where was the threat? And then you just walk by the person when you see blood coming from his head,” he said, describing the scene.
Cuomo also urged the mayor and district attorney in Buffalo to investigate the incident and move expeditiously towards potentially bringing criminal charges against and firing the officers involved.
Cuomo highlighted the incidents before pushing a police reform agenda being considered in the state legislature.
U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer called for an investigation, according to a statement reported by WIVB-TV.
“The casual cruelty demonstrated by Buffalo police officers tonight is gut-wrenching and unacceptable,” John Curr, the Buffalo chapter director for the New York Civil Liberties Union, said in a statement, adding that it should be a “wake-up call” for city leaders to address police violence.
In its initial statement on the incident, the Buffalo Police Department said a person “was injured when he tripped & fell,” WIVB-TV reported. A later statement posted on the department’s Facebook page said two officers had been suspended without pay and an internal affairs investigation was underway.
Mayor Byron Brown said in a statement that he and the city’s police commissioner were “deeply disturbed by the video.” Brown also confirmed the officers’ suspension and internal affairs investigation.
“After days of peaceful protests and several meetings between myself, police leadership and members of the community, tonight’s event is disheartening,” Brown said.
Five protesters were arrested for disorderly conduct, according to NBC affiliate WGRZ-TV. None of the police officers seen in the video has been criminally charged.
The Buffalo Police Department and the New York State Police did not immediately respond to USA TODAY’s requests for comment on Thursday.
The incident comes after more than a week of protests against police brutality following George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis. Floyd, who is black, died after now-fired police officer, who is white, pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes as other officers stood by.
Since Floyd’s death, which has been ruled a homicide, protesters nationwide have decried police brutality and racial inequality. Some protests have been marred by violence and looting, and police have been caught on camera multiple times using force against protesters – including peaceful ones.
“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,” Brown said. “My thoughts are with the victim tonight.”
Contributing: Marcia Greenwood, Democrat and Chronicle
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