Two police officers in Buffalo, New York, have been suspended without pay after a video showed police shoving an older man who then stumbled backwards and hit his head on the ground. The video, captured by NPR member station WBFO, shows the man bleeding from his head onto the pavement.
The incident occurred on Thursday at the end of a protest in Niagara Square, according to CBS affiliate WIVB. The man was eventually taken away from the scene by an ambulance. A source told WIVB that the man who fell in the video suffered from a laceration and a possible concussion.
Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown tweeted on Thursday night that the elderly man was in "stable but serious condition" at the Erie County Medical Center Hospital. He said he was "deeply disturbed" by the video.
"Tonight, after a physical altercation between two separate groups of protesters participating in an illegal demonstration beyond the curfew, two Buffalo Police officers knocked down a 75-year-old man... After days of peaceful protests and several meetings between myself, Police leadership and members of the community, tonight's event is disheartening," Brown said. "I hope to continue to build on the progress we have achieved as we work together to address racial injustice and inequity in the City of Buffalo."
People can be heard shouting in the video that the man was bleeding from his ear, and that medics were being called. An ambulance arrived soon after.
Buffalo Police Department Captain Jeff Rinaldo told CBS News later Thursday night that "the Police Commissioner has immediately suspended two officers without pay in connection with the incident observed in the video." Rinaldo said the department has launched an internal affairs investigation.
Buffalo Police originally told reporters in a summary of the protest that "one person was injured when he tripped and fell." It is not clear if they were referring to the same incident.
In a tweet, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo called the incident "wholly unjustified and utterly disgraceful." He said he and Mayor Brown agreed that, "the officers involved should be immediately suspended pending a formal investigation."
"Police officers must enforce — NOT ABUSE — the law," Cuomo added.
The incident drew a quick backlash on social media, with thousands of people commenting on the video. Many people, including celebrities, called for the officers who shoved the man to be fired.
New York Senator Charles Schumer said the "video was deeply disturbing and the actions were wrong," according to WIVB.
The New York Civil Liberties Union issued a statement on the matter, saying: "Police officers cannot continue to hide behind the lie that they are protecting and serving."
"The casual cruelty demonstrated by Buffalo police officers tonight is gut-wrenching and unacceptable. Suspensions and an investigation are already in order, but there is little more we have to see to know what took place," NYCLU Buffalo chapter director John Curr said. "City leaders need to take this as a wake-up call and seriously address the police violence during this week's protest and the culture of impunity that led to this incident."
David Begnaud contributed reporting.