A 41-year-old Black man died of suffocation after police officers put a hood on his head, slammed his head into the pavement, and restrained him for over two minutes until he fell unconscious.
The man, Daniel Prude, was arrested on March 23 and died in hospital a week later — two months before the death in police custody of George Floyd, which sparked nationwide protests.
Prude’s death received little or no media attention until Wednesday, when his family released disturbing police body-cam footage of the arrest.
The video shows Prude — who at the time of his arrest was running naked through the streets of Rochester, New York — complying with officers’ demands to lie on the ground and put his hands behind his back when they encounter him at around 3 a.m.
The officers then placed a “spit hood” over Prude’s head. According to documents released by Prude’s family Wednesday alongside the videos, one officer said the hood was placed on the victim’s head because he was spitting continuously in the direction of officers and they were concerned about coronavirus. At the time, New York was experiencing the early days of a massive coronavirus outbreak.
Warning: footage is extremely graphic.
Prude becomes visibly distressed by the hood, and when he demands the police remove it, the officers slams his head into the pavement with one officer holding his head down with both hands. Another officer places a knee on his back.
Prude initially resists and shouts: “Trying to kill me!” and “OK, stop. I need it. I need it.” Soon, however, his shouts turn to whimpers and grunts.
The officers only show concern after Prude stops moving. “You good, man?” one officer asks.
The video shows emergency services arriving on the scene and administering CPR before Prude is loaded into an ambulance and taken to the hospital.
A medical examiner concluded that Prude’s death was a homicide caused by “complications of asphyxia in the setting of physical restraint.” The report lists excited delirium and acute intoxication by phencyclidine, or PCP, as contributing factors.
The family is now calling for the officers involved to face justice, with Prude’s brother telling a news conference Wednesday that the incident was a “cold-blooded murder.”
“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?” Joe Prude asked at a news conference Wednesday.
Prude, who was from Chicago, traveled by train to Rochester to visit his brother on March 22. However he was kicked off the train for “unruly behavior,” according to an internal affairs investigator’s report.
He was taken by police to a hospital for a mental health evaluation at 7 p.m., around eight hours before his encounter with the police.
Prude was released several hours later and went to his brother’s house. However, at 3 a.m. on March 23, Joe Prude called 911 saying his brother was acting erratically and had run out of the house.
The New York State attorney general, Letitia James, and the Rochester police chief said they were investigating the death.
“I know that there is a rhetoric that is out there that this is a cover-up,” La’Ron Singletary, Rochester’s police chief, told a separate news conference. “This is not a cover-up.”
The officers involved are still on the force.
Activists are now demanding that the officers involved in Prude’s arrest be charged with murder.
“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 de-escalate. These officers are trained to ridicule, instead of supporting Mr. Daniel Prude,” Ashley Gantt of Free the People ROC said at the news conference with Prude's family.
Cover: A makeshift memorial is seen, Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2020, in Rochester, N.Y., near the site where Daniel Prude was restrained by police officers. (AP Photo/Adrian Kraus)