The mayor of Rochester, New York, Lovely Warren, on Thursday suspended seven police officers involved in the suffocation death of Daniel Prude, a 41-year-old Black man, The Associated Press reported.
Warren’s announcement followed a day of protests in Rochester which saw community leaders and Black Lives Matter demonstrators calling for justice for Prude, who died in March after police officers detained him and covered his head in a mesh hood.
Protesters demanded the officers be held accountable for Prude’s death ― and also questioned why it has taken more than five months for officials to publicly acknowledge the troubling circumstances around his death.
Body camera footage of Prude’s fatal encounter with police shows the man sitting naked and handcuffed on a road as a light snow falls. He’s wearing a mesh hood over his head ― a safety device used by police to protect themselves from a detainee’s spit.
Officers said they’d put the hood on Prude, who was under the influence of PCP, because he was spitting on the ground and they were concerned about the spread of the coronavirus.
The officers had been responding to a 911 call made by Prude’s brother, Joe Prude, who said he called the cops because he’d been concerned about his sibling’s welfare.
Daniel Prude had been released from the hospital a few hours before his deadly encounter with police. He’d undergone a medical evaluation there after expressing suicidal thoughts.
“I placed a phone call for my brother to get help. Not for my brother to get lynched,” Joe Prude told reporters on Wednesday, AP reported. “How did you see him and not directly say, ‘The man is defenseless, buck naked on the ground. He’s cuffed up already. Come on.’ How many more brothers gotta die for society to understand that this needs to stop?”
The body camera footage shows Prude, who had taken off his own clothes, complying with police instructions to get on the ground and put his hands behind his back.
Sitting on the ground, he becomes visibly agitated and shouts at the officers to “give me your gun.” The officers then put the hood on Prude, who cries, “You’re trying to kill me!”
When Prude attempts to rise from the ground, the footage shows officers forcing him facedown on the road.
One officer used both hands to push Prude’s head down. Another officer used his knee to press down on Prude’s back and a third held down his legs.
The officers’ methods have drawn comparisons to the actions of the Minneapolis police officer who knelt on the neck of George Floyd.
Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, died in May after the encounter ― sparking nationwide protests against racism and police brutality.
Daniel Prude needed mental health assistance.Instead he was handcuffed in near-freezing temperatures and killed by Rochester police.His death was unjust, inhumane, and avoidable. We demand justice for Daniel Prude and his family.https://t.co/3HKzGCyuEX
— NYCLU (@NYCLU) September 2, 2020
In the body camera footage of Prude’s arrest, his body gradually becomes more still and his shouts turn into whimpers as he remains pinned on ground.
By the time officers roll Prude onto his back ― about three minutes after first pressing his head down ― he’s lost consciousness and, according to an ambulance EMT at the scene, stopped breathing.
Prude’s heartbeat was restored in the ambulance and he was hospitalized, but he died on March 30 ― a week after his encounter with police, the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle reported.
The Monroe County medical examiner ruled Prude’s death a homicide caused by “complications of asphyxia in the setting of physical restraint.” The autopsy report also lists “excited delirium” and acute intoxication by PCP as contributing factors.
New York officials have vowed to quickly conclude a “fair and independent investigation” — which state Attorney General Letitia James’ office launched in April — into Prude’s death.
“The death of Daniel Prude was a tragedy, and I extend my deepest condolences to his family,” James said in a statement Wednesday. “I share the community’s concerns about ensuring a fair and independent investigation into his death and support their right to protest. We will work tirelessly to provide the transparency and accountability that all our communities deserve.”
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