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Cuomo Calls For Probe Into Criminal Charges After Viewing Buffalo Video

Mike Groll
Office of N.Y. Gov. Andrew Cuomo
Governor Andrew Cuomo provides updates on protests following George Floyd’s death and the coronavirus during a press conference at the State Capitol Friday. ";

Governor Andrew Cuomo says the video footage of an elderly white man in Buffalo knocked down by police and left to bleed on the sidewalk made him “sick to his stomach,” and he called for an investigation into criminal charges for the offices involved by the Erie County District Attorney. 

The governor’s comments come as protests continue in cities around the state with no signs of abating, and the legislature planned to meet Monday to discuss bills dealing with police brutality.

Cuomo replayed the video, shot by NPR member station WBFO, during his daily press briefing, saying it “disturbs your basic sense of decency and humanity.”

“Why was that necessary?” Cuomo asked. “An older gentleman, where was the threat? And then you just walk by the person while you see blood coming from his head? Police officers walked by.”

The governor says watching the video for the first time, he had the same sick feeling he’s had when his health officials report the daily coronavirus death toll, which on Thursday was at 42, down from a high point of nearly 800 a day in mid-April.

Cuomo says he backs Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown’s decision to immediately suspend the officers who are seen in the video pushing the man to the ground. Cuomo says he’d like to see the city pursue firing the officers, and that the district attorney should pursue charges against the police. And he says it needs to happen fast. He says it took to long for charges to be filed against the Minneapolis officers involved in the death of George Floyd during a police encounter.

“People don’t want vagaries,” said Cuomo.

People are upset, they’re angry they’re frustrated. Give me an answer, quickly.”

The governor say he called the man, identified as Martin Gugino of Amherst, a Buffalo suburb, who is in serious but stable condition in the hospital.

Cuomo also announced he’s backing the state legislature’s plan to return to the Capitol June 8 to discuss some measures aimed at curbing police abuses.

One is a provision known as 50a that’s been used by localities to suppress prior police disciplinary records when an officer is accused of unjustly harming or killing a person.  

Another measure would make it a hate crime to call 911 and make a false claim based on a person’s race. The measure is in response to Amy Cooper, a white woman in Central Park who, asked by a black man to leash her dog, called 911 and said an African American man was threatening her.

Other bills would make police chokeholds illegal, and codify into state law the state attorney general’s authority to appoint a special prosecutor when a police encounter leads to the death of a New Yorker.  

Cuomo calls it the “say their name reform agenda,” in honor of past victims of police brutality.  

“Mr. Floyd is just the last name on a very long list,” Cuomo said.

Cuomo was asked in the briefing whether he contuse to support a nightly curfew in New York City that he jointly issued with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. The curfew has led to the arrest of peaceful protesters who violated it.

The governor says whether or not to continue to curfew is a local decision, and he supports whatever the mayor ultimately decides.

Cuomo says the curfew has had a positive impact on bringing down incidences of late night looting.

Karen has covered state government and politics for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 New York and Connecticut stations, since 1990. She is also a regular contributor to the statewide public television program about New York State government, New York Now. She appears on the reporter’s roundtable segment, and interviews newsmakers.
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