Seven Police Officers Suspended as New Evidence Comes to Light in Daniel Prude Death

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In this image taken from police body camera video provided by Roth and Roth LLP, a Rochester police officer puts a hood over the head of Daniel Prude, on March 23, 2020, in Rochester, N.Y. Prude, a Black man who had run naked through the streets of the western New York city, died of asphyxiation after a group of police officers put a hood over his head, then pressed his face into the pavement for two minutes, according to video and records released Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2020, by his family. Prude died March 30 after he was taken off life support, seven days after the encounter with police in Rochester. (Rochester Police via Roth and Roth LLP via AP)

Family Alleges He Was Treated Like a “Damn Animal” by Rochester Police

By Linhchi Nguyen

New raw video in the March death of Daniel Prude has surfaced, leading to additional publicity and allegations against a group of police officers now suspended by the department for their role in the asphyxiation death.

Prude, a 41-year-old Black man, died of asphyxiation after a group of police pressed themselves against his defenseless body on the cold pavement. After months of silence following his death, details of the case are finally brought up to the public, and the seven police officers involved are suspended.

On March 23, two months before the murder of George Floyd at the hands of police officers, Joe Prude dialed 911 after his brother, Daniel Prude, fled naked into the streets. A group of Rochester police arrived at the scene, and a newly released video footage reveals them surrounding Daniel Prude and later pressing themselves on top of his body as he lies on the ground.

At a press conference on Wednesday, Joe Prude directed his anger at the officers involved: “The matter was a call for help as you sit here in a push-up stance on my brother’s damn neck. As you’re sitting here with your knee in my brother’s damn back. When he’s defenseless.”

The video footage shows one of the police officers, lying in a plank position, with both hands placed on top of Daniel Prude’s neck. A few minutes before that, the officers placed a white “spit hood” over Prude’s head, a device that is intended to protect officers from a detainee’s saliva. Prude is heard crying loudly in a muffled voice under the cloth.

A few minutes later, the officers grabbed at Prude’s head as he desperately shouted multiple times to take the hood off his face. The video shows the officers’ hands holding down firmly onto the spit hood. Later, an ambulance arrived, and Prude, who was physically struggling and crying just moments before, remained motionless and silent.

A comment from an officer indicated, “He feels pretty cold,” after feeling the temperature of Prude’s body. Another officer then attempted to do compressions on Prude’s chest, and, about a minute afterward, Prude was finally carried in a gurney onto the ambulance vehicle.

Less than 12 minutes had passed from the time Daniel Prude was handcuffed until he was placed in the ambulance. Seven days after the encounter, Prude died, on March 30. His death was confirmed by a medical examiner as a homicide, caused by “complications of asphyxia in the setting of physical restraint.” Delirium and acute intoxication by phencyclidine were also listed as contributing factors.

However, it wasn’t until last Wednesday, more than five months after the incident, that his death received public attention, when his family held a news conference and released police body camera video.

“I placed a phone call for my brother to get help. Not for my brother to get lynched,” Joe Prude stated. “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?”

He added that Prude’s race should not have led the officers to treat him any lesser than a human. “It doesn’t make me lesser than you. Because my skin is darker than yours. My melanin is better than yours. I don’t care what it is. We’re all human. I’m not no animal. And that’s what they…treat my brother like – a damn animal.”

Prude’s aunt, Letoria Moore, said Prude had been traumatized by the deaths of his mother and a brother, and he had been visiting Joe Prude in Rochester to be close with him. During this particular visit, Prude was kicked off the train and was taken into custody for a mental health evaluation for suicidal thoughts. This was only eight hours before the encounter that led to his death.

“The police have shown us over and over again that they are not equipped to handle individuals with mental health concerns. These officers are trained to kill, and not to deescalate,” said Ashley Grantt of Free the People ROC at the news conference with Prude’s family.

The seven Rochester police officers involved were not suspended until last Thursday. In response to rising questions from activists and the press as to why the case did not become public for so long, Mayor Lovely Warren announced in a press briefing, “In this particular instance, this is not within our control.” She explained that the “the executive order outlines that this case has to be handled by the attorney general’s office.”

The law Warren was referring to is Executive Order 147 under which deaths of unarmed people in police custody are often turned over to the attorney general’s office, rather than handled by local officials. On Wednesday, Attorney General Letitia James made her first statement ensuring, “We will work tirelessly to provide the transparency and accountability that all our communities deserve.”

However, in a letter delivered on Thursday, the Rochester City Council requested the state attorney general to “come to our City, address our community, and explain the process your office must undertake.” They also demanded Attorney James to expedite the investigation of Prude’s death and that this process “occur[s] with transparency and urgency.”

Protesters have been taking to the streets, demanding justice for Daniel Prude on Wednesday and Thursday. Questions have also been stirring regarding the use of the spit hood that was placed over Prude’s face during his arrest. According to Associated Press News, one officer wrote that Prude was spitting continuously in the direction of the officers, and they were concerned about coronavirus. However, spit hoods have been scrutinized as a factor in the deaths of several prisoners in the US in recent years.

Attorney James said that further investigation is continuing.

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About The Author

The Vanguard Court Watch operates in Yolo, Sacramento and Sacramento Counties with a mission to monitor and report on court cases. Anyone interested in interning at the Courthouse or volunteering to monitor cases should contact the Vanguard at info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org - please email info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org if you find inaccuracies in this report.

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11 thoughts on “Seven Police Officers Suspended as New Evidence Comes to Light in Daniel Prude Death”

    1. David Greenwald

      The Monroe County medical examiner ruled the death a homicide caused by “complications of asphyxia in the setting of physical restraint,” according to an autopsy report.

        1. Bill Marshall

          David… they wanted to make sure that the guy they were murdering wouldn’t get any saliva spray from him… from the narrative, the ‘hoodie’ thingy is the least of the problem with the atrocity…

          That said, in the mid-70’s there was a guy (I’ve mentioned this before, I was @ the crime scene) where a guy, high on PCP, broke into a home, grabbed a knife, slaughtered a child in his crib, stabbed a pregnant woman (killing the 8+ month old fetus), stripped naked, and ran out on the street, naked, carrying a knife… San Mateo police talked, never tackled/pinned him to the ground, and he was taken into custody… “… when will they ever learn, when will they ever learn?”

  1. Eric Gelber

    It’s also being reported that Prude was under the influence of PCP.

    Even if Mr. Prude was under the influence of PCP, that would not let the police off the hook. Causation is a very complicated and controversial area of the law, particularly where there are multiple factors that may have contributed to an injury (in this case death). The law varies by state but, generally, legal causation requires proof that the defendant’s conduct was sufficiently connected to the injury. Even though PCP use may have contributed to the result, the cops could be found criminally liable if theIr conduct was a substantial (not trivial) factor, but not necessarily the only cause of Mr. Prude’s death.

    1. Keith Olsen

      Even if Mr. Prude was under the influence of PCP, that would not let the police off the hook. 

      Who has said it would?  But it definitely plays into how Prude was acting and is part of the story.

  2. Tia Will

    Keith

    Yes, it is part of the story. A very, very small part in view of the fact he was already completely restrained. A part of the story so small that it had no more relevance than if he had been found to have alcohol or marijuana on board. So small as to be totally irrelevant to the actions of the officers.

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