Want the best of VICE News straight to your inbox? Sign up here.
Two Buffalo police officers have been suspended without pay after being caught on video knocking down an elderly white man during a police brutality protest, leaving him in a pool of blood.
The graphic video went viral Thursday night and prompted widespread outrage. In the video, the protester, who has yet to be identified, is seen approaching a line of police in Buffalo’s Niagara Square and appears to be trying to talk to the officers, who are dressed in riot gear.
Two officers intercept the man and push him, one with a baton and the other with his hand. The man stumbles before falling backward, and a loud crack can be heard when his head hits the ground.
When the camera pans across to the man on the ground, blood can be clearly seen coming from his head.
“He’s bleeding out of his ear. Get a medic!” yells a voice from off camera, apparently coming from a protester.
As the man is lying on the ground, dozens of officers walk past him. One of the officers who knocked him over starts to bend over to help, but another officer pulls him away.
The man was taken by ambulance to Erie County Medical Center where he is in a serious, but stable condition, reportedly suffering concussion and lacerations, according to local media.
On Friday morning, Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz tweeted that the victim was “alert and oriented.”
The incident happened shortly after Buffalo’s 8 p.m. curfew started Thursday evening. The video was captured by a reporter from local public radio station WBFO, and was shared widely on Twitter and has been viewed more than 45 million times.
“I was deeply disturbed by the video,” Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said in a statement. “After days of peaceful protests and several meetings between myself, police leadership, and members of the community, tonight’s event is disheartening.”
According to local media, the Buffalo Police Department initially tried to pass the incident off as an accident, issuing a statement saying that one person was “injured when he tripped [and] fell.”
But after viewing the video, Buffalo police commissioner Byron Lockwood ordered an investigation and suspended the two officers, Brown said.
Ashley Rowe, an anchor for Buffalo news channel WKBW-TV, said that the shifting police description of the incident highlighted the importance of cellphone footage in holding police to account.
“In two hours, Buffalo Police have gone from 'tripped and fell' to two officers suspended without pay,” she tweeted. “What would have been the result if there wasn’t cell phone video?”