All 57 officers of the Buffalo Police Emergency Response team resigned Friday afternoon in support of two police officers who were suspended without pay after shoving a 75-year-old man to the ground during a protest.
A police union representative told WKBW that the officers were following orders given to them by Deputy Police Commissioner Joe Gramaglia to clear the area and do not believe they were in the wrong.
While the members of the emergency response team resigned from their specific roles, they did not resign from the police department altogether and are still employed.
Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said in a statement his office "is aware of developments related to the world assignments of certain members of the Buffalo police force."
He added: "At this time, we can confirm that contingency plans are in place to maintain police services and ensure public safety within our community."
The developments come after the Erie County District Attorney’s Office announced earlier in the day that it will be investigating an incident in which two Buffalo, New York police officers were caught on camera shoving a septuagenarian to the ground at a protest on police brutality.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo called the video, which has been viewed on Twitter 38 million times, "utterly disgraceful."
The 75-year-old man, who has been identified as Martin Gugino and is widely known in the area as an activist, was listed in serious but stable condition, Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz tweeted Friday.
"As was relayed to me by an ECMC official, he is 'alert and oriented,'" Poloncarz tweeted. "That is better news. Let's hope he fully recovers."
Gugino was caught on camera being shoved to the ground by police officers in tactical gear shortly after a curfew went into effect near Niagara Square.
In the video, Gugino can be seen approaching a large group of officers. Someone is heard shouting, "Push him back!" One officer raises his baton over the man while another pushes him in the chest. He stumbled backwards and falls on the pavement. A pool of blood can be seen slowly forming around his head.
The Buffalo Police Department's initial statement was that Gugino was injured when he tripped and fell during a confrontation between protesters and police officers. However, television station WBFO had videotaped and aired the incident, prompting a fierce backlash against the police department's statement and an internal affairs investigation.
"I was deeply disturbed by the video, as was Buffalo Police Commissioner Byron Lockwood," Brown said in a statement. "He directed an immediate investigation into the matter, and the two officers have been suspended without pay."
Brown added that "after days of peaceful protests and several meetings between myself, police leadership and members of the community, tonight's event is disheartening."
Poloncarz has spoken out against the two officers and said they must be "held responsible for their actions" and not just fired from the department.
The officers have not been identified.
Kelly Zarcone, Gugino's attorney, described him Friday as "a longtime peaceful protester, human rights advocate and overall fan of the U.S. Constitution for many years."
"He appreciates all of the well wishes he has received and requests that any further protests continue to be peaceful," Zarcone said.