Death of Daniel Prude, Black Man Who Died After Rochester Police Put Hood Over His Face, Sparks Protests

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A Black man died of suffocation after police in Rochester, New York put a hood over his head and held him down for two minutes, according to police video and reports released by his family on Wednesday. Daniel Prude, 41, died when his family took him off life support on March 30, seven days after being restrained by officers.

Prude's brother, Joe, called 911 on March 23, saying he was concerned for his sibling, who ran from his house shortly after being briefly hospitalized at Rochester's Strong Memorial for expressing suicidal thoughts.

"I placed the phone call for my brother to get help, not for my brother to get lynched," Joe Prude said Wednesday at a City Hall press conference .

Daniel Prude's death occurred two months before the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis Police, an in-custody homicide that sparked unrest and protests across the country.

But the Rochester incident didn't receive substantial attention until Prude's family released the disturbing footage and police documents on Wednesday, after receiving the body cam video and reports through a public records request.

Later Thursday, Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren announced the officers involved had been suspended with pay, against the city council's advice.

“I am suspending the officers in question today against council’s advice, and I urge the attorney general to complete her investigation,” Mayor Warren said. “I understand that the union may sue the city for this, they shall feel free to do so — I have been sued before.

"I’m filled with grief and anger at myself for all the failures that led to his death. I know that I must do better as a leader in this community. We all must do better as leaders in this community,” the mayor said.

New York State Attorney General Letitia James and the Rochester police chief said there was an ongoing investigation into Prude's death. The officers involved, who have not been identified, are still on the force.

Daniel Prude, who lived in Chicago, had arrived at his brother's Rochester home on March 23. Joe Prude phoned for help after Daniel ran from his house in an agitated state, according to relatives.

When police found him, he was naked and in distress, according to police records. Prude had allegedly gone on a destructive tear, according to police reports, smashing the windows of several stores and shouting about having COVID-19. A passing tow truck driver who called 911 described Prude as being covered in blood.

The video shows officers confronting Prude, as a light snow falls. He is standing in the street in handcuffs and yelling. Police place a white hood over his head, apparently to keep him from spraying saliva on them.

The coronavirus pandemic was in its early throes at the time.

After being hooded, Prude becomes more erratic. He is heard shouting “Give me that gun. Give me that gun,” before three officers are seen shoving him to the pavement.

Prude is held down in the street the video appears to show, as officers restrain his feet and his head. 

One officer repeatedly tells him to “stop spitting” and to “calm down.”

After two minutes, Prude is no longer moving or speaking, and the same officer is heard asking, “You good, man?”

The officer then says Prude has vomited. A paramedic then performs CPR as Prude is carried into an ambulance.

The Monroe County coroner ruled Prude's death a homicide caused by “complications of asphyxia in the setting of physical restraint,” and noted “excited delirium” and acute PCP intoxication as contributing factors, the autopsy report said. 

At Wednesday's press conference, Prude’s family called for the officers involved to be fired and charged with homicide. “How many more brothers got to die for society to understand that this needs to stop,” said Joe Prude.

That night, hundreds of protesters marched through Rochester.

Rochester Police Chief La’Ron D. Singletary said Wednesday he understood that there was anger and frustration over Prude's death and the pace of its investigation.

“I know that there is a rhetoric that is out there that this is a cover-up,” Chief Singletary said. “This is not a cover-up.”

State attorney general James in a statement Wednesday said, “The death of Daniel Prude was a tragedy ... as with every investigation, we will follow the facts of this case and ensure a complete and thorough examination of all relevant parties.”

As of Thursday, a GoFundMe created to support Daniel Prude's family had raised more than $22,000 of its $1 million goal. 

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