BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — Prosecutors investigated Friday after a television crew captured a police officer in Buffalo shoving a 75-year-old man who then falls and cracks his head, a confrontation that resulted in the suspension of two officers.
The video from WFBO of Thursday night’s encounter, which happened near the conclusion of race protests over the death of George Floyd in Minnesota, quickly sparked outrage.
It showed an officer pushing a man who approached a line of officers clearing demonstrators from Niagara Square around the time of an 8 p.m. curfew. The man falls backward and hits his head on the pavement. Blood leaks out as officers walk past.
The mayor, Byron Brown, said in a statement that the man, who hasn’t been publicly identified, was in serious condition. A hospital official said he was “alert and oriented,” Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz tweeted Friday morning.
“Let’s hope he fully recovers,” Poloncarz said.
The video immediately generated outrage, including among elected officials, despite lacking the racial element that made the death of Floyd, a black man who died after a white police officer pressed a knee on his neck for several minutes, such a flashpoint.
The officer and the man in the Buffalo video both appear to be white.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo endorsed the suspensions, tweeting that what was seen on video was “wholly unjustified and utterly disgraceful.”
The police commissioner suspended two police officers without pay, the mayor said.
The district attorney’s office “continues to investigate the incident,” officials said in a news release, but the victim could not talk to investigators Thursday night.
Buffalo police initially said in a statement that a person “was injured when he tripped & fell,” WIVB-TV reported, but Capt. Jeff Rinaldo later told the TV station an internal investigation was opened.
“When I saw the video, certainly, it was incredibly distressing and very disappointing. You don’t want to see anything like that,” Brown told WIVB-TV on Friday.
The office of state Attorney General Letitia James tweeted that officials there were aware of the video. 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.