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Buffalo police officers plead not guilty to assaulting 75-year-old man at demonstration

Two Buffalo Police officers are suspended without pay after they pushed an elderly protester injuring hi
Two Buffalo Police officers are suspended without pay after they pushed an elderly protester injuring hi (CNN Newsource)

BUFFALO, New York – Two suspended Buffalo, New York, police officers pleaded not guilty Saturday to assaulting a 75-year-old man during a protest against racism and police brutality.

Both were charged with one count of assault in the second degree and have been released on their own recognizance without bail.

They were arraigned via video conference and had the same attorney.

The officers, who were with the Police Department's Emergency Response Team, are scheduled to appear in court again July 20.

Video from a demonstration Thursday shows two officers pushing Martin Gugino back. He falls to the sidewalk, where his head bleeds. The officers and others then walk by him, some looking down at him as they pass.

Gugino was hospitalized with a head injury.

The officers turned themselves in Saturday morning, Erie County District Attorney John Flynn said in a news conference after the arraignment.

Flynn said he was prepared to charge the officers on Friday, but he "didn't want to pour gasoline on the fire" after he learned 57 officers resigned from the Emergency Response Team on Friday and "they weren't going to come last night to protect the city of Buffalo."

Flynn was concerned about the safety of the city, protesters and the officers Friday night.

"I was generally concerned about what could potentially happen if I did this yesterday afternoon and there wasn't enough security downtown," he said, "so I decided to do it this morning."

Flynn's comments came after Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Friday the officers should be fired and prosecutors should move "fairly but quickly."

"When I saw the video, I got sick to my stomach," Cuomo said. "I would encourage the district attorney not to do what happened in Minneapolis, which the delay itself caused issues. People don't want vaguery. They are upset and want answers."

Mayor Byron Brown told CNN's Chris Cuomo on Friday night that he was told that emergency response team officers are trained to keep moving forward.

“Embedded with them are medics, officers with first-aid training,” he said. “The medics were just behind the first line unit that continued to move forward, and within seconds, the medics rendered first-aid assistance.”