Gugino suffered a fractured skull and brain injury in the incident, which left him hospitalized for nearly a month and unable to walk.
Buffalo officers Aaron Torgalski and Robert McCabe were charged with felony assault, but grand jurors declined to support the prosecution, which means the charges are dismissed.
Erie County District Attorney John Flynn defended his decision to bring the charges at a news conference Thursday.
“I stand by the fact that charges should’ve been filed, and there was probable cause at that time to charge that offense, and I stand by that,” Flynn said, adding that a widely seen, graphic video of the encounter “speaks for itself.”
The DA, citing grand jury secrecy rules, declined to discuss the panel’s decision.
The video in question shows Gugino walking up to a phalanx of officers in Buffalo’s Niagara Square on June 4, 2020, as they begin to enforce the city’s 8 p.m. curfew. Two officers roughly push Gugino backward, causing him to fall and hit his head on the pavement with an audible crack. The man lies motionless on his back as blood pours from his ears. None of the officers offer assistance.
The police department initially said Gugino “tripped and fell,” a description contradicted by the video.
Gugino told Buffalo’s Spectrum News he was surprised by the grand jury’s decision. He said he had hoped the incident might “change the direction of the police department.”
He also defended his actions and those of his fellow Black Lives Matter protesters that day, criticizing Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown’s decision to impose a curfew.
“It wasn’t really a curfew,” Gugino told the station. “It was an intent to suppress dissent.”
“People were coming in to complain to the government, Black Lives Matter, a completely legitimate protest,” Gugino explained. “There’s no reason for police to break that up short of them thinking there’s some kind of lawless action about to take place or imminent, clear and present danger to somebody.”
McCabe and Flynn remain suspended from the police force, pending an ongoing internal affairs investigation.