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Video of Buffalo cellblock beating draws disgust, outrage from city officials

Disgust and outrage describe the reaction from Buffalo city officials and others who watched the video of a city cellblock attendant attacking a handcuffed prisoner.

The two Buffalo police officers who stood by and did nothing to stop Matthew Jaskula from continuing his attack against Shaun P. Porter have also been criticized.

“It’s disturbing, because you don’t understand how anybody can be treated in that manner. He’s handcuffed with his hands behind him. He doesn’t pose a risk to anyone,” said Niagara District Common Council Member David Rivera. “I’m just trying to understand how you cannot see the pain and agony and hurt the person is going through and then dragging him on the floor.”

The public will have the chance to share their concerns and thoughts on the video with city and police officials at a soon-to-be scheduled meeting of the Common Council’s Police Oversight Committee, according to Rivera, who is chairman of the committee and is a retired city police detective sergeant. Rivera says he was also disturbed that Police Officers Joshua T. Craig and Anthony J. D'Agostino were "not trying to deescalate the whole situation."

On Thursday, The Buffalo News published the video, more than two years after the incident occurred May 19, 2016, in the cellblock in the basement of Buffalo City Court and the day after the Council settled Porter's lawsuit against the city for $300,000.

Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown's administration fought to keep the video secret for two years after The News filed a Freedom of Information Law request for it. The administration's lawyers argued that its release could affect a criminal trial of Jaskula and the lawsuit against the city.

Shaun Porter, victim in Buffalo police lockup

Jaskula, who lost his job, pleaded guilty to a federal felony charge and was sentenced to 18 months in prison.

At a news conference Friday, Brown said he found the tape "disappointing and disturbing."

"It is painful to watch," Brown said. "We are truly sorry, and apologize to the young man and his family."

Brown said he has always wanted the tape released, but the city followed the lead of federal prosecutors and the victim's attorney in opposing its release until the legal case was completed.

"We always made it clear that once the case was concluded, it would be released," the mayor said.

Brown also criticized the two police officers who stood by as Jaskula dragged Porter around the cellblock.

"I don't know what they were thinking at the time," Brown said.  "The officers were not facing the incident that occurred when it initially occurred. But it is unacceptable that action was not taken."

The mayor said that he and police brass "were not happy with what we saw."

The two officers were suspended for 30 days without pay. Brown said that was the most severe punishment the city could impose under the police union contract because the outside law enforcement agencies called in to investigate did not recommend criminal charges against the two officers.

"The maximum we can suspend is 30 days. That went to arbitration and it was upheld," Brown said. "We were not in a position to dismiss them."

The mayor also said training at the cellblock was upgraded as a result of the incident.

Council President Darius G. Pridgen, who represents the Ellicott District, said watching the video left him disgusted and disappointed.

“As a young man I served as a police officer in the Air Force and there were many arrests where people swung at us, cursed at us and spit at us. But we had to maintain order at a scene and not become the aggressor,” Pridgen said.

Council Member Joseph Golombek, Jr. who represents the North District, said the cellblock cameras support the Council's decision to buy 550 body cameras and require police officers to begin wearing them by April.

"I’m thankful for the cameras in the cellblock. The cameras show you what happened and you can get a bad apple out," Golombek said.

Also expressing outrage and shock over the video was Buffalo Black Lives Matter spokesperson Katrinna Martin-Bordeaux.

“It was extremely hard to watch that. I’ve been upset and can’t sleep. I see the humanity of my community just being dragged across the floor,” Martin-Bordeaux said. “When we say black lives matter, it is because of this. Oftentimes people in my community start to see ourselves as the lowest echelon of humanity in society and all living things.”

Craig and D'Agostino should have arrested Jaskula, she said.

When Pridgen was asked if Craig and D'Agostino were adequately disciplined, he said he was thankful that the police department had taken action against them.

"That sent out a clear message that that type of behavior will not be tolerated," Pridgen said of the suspensions. "Some cities would have ignored it and done nothing about it."

Video: Buffalo police watch as handcuffed defendant is beaten

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