The 75-year-old man who was shoved to the ground by police at a protest in Buffalo, New York, suffered a brain injury and is facing “a new normal,” his lawyer said Thursday.
The video of social justice activist Martin Gugino being pushed at a protest on June 4 outside City Hall became one of the most-viewed examples of police violence related to nationwide protests sparked by the death of George Floyd.
Gugino has been hospitalized since the incident, which led to charges of second-degree assault and suspension without pay for Buffalo officers Robert McCabe, 32, and Aaron Torgalski, 39. Both officers have pleaded not guilty.
On Thursday, Gugino’s lawyer, Kelly V. Zarcone, said she had spoken with him, and he was feeling better and “starting physical therapy today which is definitely a step in the right direction.”
But, Zarcone said, “As heartbreaking as it is, his brain is injured and he is well aware of that now.”
For that reason, she said, he wasn’t interested in doing media interviews at this point, but he “feels encouraged and uplifted by the outpouring of support which he has received from so many people all over the globe.”
“It helps,” Zarcone said. “He is looking forward to healing and determining what his ‘new normal’ might look like.”
Zarcone added that Gugino was “a soft spoken but thoughtful and principled man.”
Friends told Religion News Service that Gugino is a devout Catholic and retired computer programmer who has long worked to advocate for the poor, disenfranchised and on behalf of Black Lives Matter.
On June 4, he was at a protest in Buffalo when he approached a large group of officers in tactical gear before saying something, video shows.
The officers yell for him to move back before one or two appear to push him before he falls backward, slams his head and then lay bleeding and motionless on the ground.
One of the officers appears to lean over and say something to Gugino on the ground before another officer pulls him back and they march past him.
The incident occurred shortly after the city’s curfew of 8 p.m. on Thursday, NBC affiliate WGRZ in Buffalo reported. Buffalo police initially said the man tripped and fell, but video revealed the reality.
After the suspension of the two officers, but prior to their being charged, 57 members of the Buffalo Police Department’s Emergency Response team quit that unit in solidarity with their colleagues.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo condemned the officers’ actions on the day after the incident.
Cuomo said he spoke with Gugino and that the incident “disturbs our basic sense of decency and humanity.”
“Why, why? Why was that necessary?” the governor said. “Where was the threat? Older gentleman, where was the threat? Then you just walk by the person when you see blood coming from his head?”
President Donald Trump suggested in a tweet this week Gugino was an “ANTIFA provocateur.”
“Buffalo protester shoved by Police could be an ANTIFA provocateur. 75 year old Martin Gugino was pushed away after appearing to scan police communications in order to black out the equipment. @OANN I watched, he fell harder than was pushed. Was aiming scanner. Could be a set up?” the president tweeted Tuesday.
Trump’s claims appeared to have been ripped from a conspiracy theory that aired Tuesday morning on One America News Network, a far-right cable news channel. The theory was originally posted to an anonymous conservative blog.