Two officers of the Buffalo Police Department have been suspended without pay after video surfaced showing them pushing a 75-year-old protester to the ground Thursday evening, causing him to hit his head on the sidewalk and suffer a serious head injury, officials said.
The footage, shows the man walking up to uniformed officers in Buffalo’s Niagara Square during a demonstration against police brutality and over George Floyd’s death. The officers, who had begun enforcing curfew, yell what sounds like “move!” and “push him back!” One officer can be seen pushing the man with an outstretched arm, while another shoves a baton into him. A third officer appears to shove colleagues toward the man.
The man falls to the ground. His head whips backward onto the pavement with a thud, and then he lies motionless.
“He’s bleeding out of his ear!” someone yells, as blood pools beneath the man’s head.
The officers then keep walking, leaving the man on the ground.
The man was transported to the hospital, where he is in “stable but serious condition,” Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said. Buffalo police spokesman Capt. Jeff Rinaldo said he believes the man’s injuries include a laceration and “possible concussion,” while Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said it was a “serious head injury.”
Buffalo Police Commissioner Byron Lockwood launched an internal affairs investigation into the officers after seeing the video, Rinaldo said. He declined to identify the officers who were suspended.
Video of the incident provoked widespread condemnation online, as police in cities across the country fall under intensifying scrutiny for incidents of excessive force against peaceful protesters. Poloncarz called the incident “sickening” while New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) said it was “wholly unjustified and utterly disgraceful.”
“Police Officers must enforce — NOT ABUSE — the law,” he wrote on Twitter, adding that he fully supported the officers’ suspensions.
This incident is wholly unjustified and utterly disgraceful.
I've spoken with Buffalo @MayorByronBrown and we agree that the officers involved should be immediately suspended pending a formal investigation.
Police Officers must enforce — NOT ABUSE — the law. https://t.co/EYIbTlXnPt
— Andrew Cuomo (@NYGovCuomo) June 5, 2020
A Buffalo police press statement initially said that a man was injured when he “tripped and fell” during “a skirmish involving protesters,” in which several people were arrested. That language only amplified the criticism, as the video showed otherwise.
See video below (viewer’s discretion is advised):
NEW YORK POLICE push man and he hits his head, starts to BLEED from his head in #Buffalo #buffaloprotests #newyorkprotest #newyork #nycprotests #NYPD #GeorgeFloydprotest #PoliceBrutality #protests2020 #protest2020 #protest
— Durham Operations🏴 (@canadarcho) June 5, 2020
Rinaldo said that the statement that the man “tripped” came from officers who were not directly involved and were standing behind the two officers who shoved the man, lacking the right vantage point. Rinaldo said that once the video surfaced, it was brought to Lockwood’s attention, leading to the officers’ immediate suspension without pay.