Prosecutors investigated on 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 8pm 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.
Governor 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 on Thursday night.
Buffalo police initially said in a statement that a person was injured when he tripped & fell, WIVB-TV reported, but Captain 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. US Senator 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.
California mayor resigns over email about police killings
The mayor of a Southern California city resigned following an email in which he stated he didn’t believe there’s ever been a “good person of color killed by a police officer” locally.
Temecula Mayor James Stewart had apologized on Thursday for the email, saying he never meant to use the word good. He had said he is dyslexic and so used voice text to send his message but failed to notice the added word.
“Unfortunately, I did not take the time to proof read what was recorded. I absolutely did not say that,” Stewart told the Riverside Press-Enterprise on Thursday.
“What I said is ‘I don’t believe there has ever been a person of color murdered by police’ on context to Temecula or Riverside County. I absolutely did not say ‘good’. I have no idea how that popped up.”
Stewart said he was replying to someone concerned about our police officers and their sensitivity training.
The city issued a press release late on Thursday announcing that Stewart, who was elected to a four-year term in 2016, was stepping down from his post and the city council, news outlets reported.
“You have every right to be hurt and offended. My typos and off-the-cuff response to an email on a serious topic added pain at a time where our community, and our country, is suffering,” Stewart said in a statement.
“I may not be the best writer and I sometimes misspeak, but I am not racist.” He said he was resigning because he understood his sincerest apologies cannot remedy this situation.