Footage of in­ci­dent that took place 2 months be­fore Ge­orge Floyd’s death re­veals Rochester of­fi­cers pressed vic­tim’s face into pave­ment for 2 min­utes

Chicago Sun-Times - - TOP NEWS - BY MICHAEL HILL

A Black man from Chicago who had run naked through the streets of a 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 by the man’s fam­ily.

Daniel Prude died March 30 af­ter he was taken off life sup­port, seven days af­ter the en­counter with po­lice in Rochester. His death re­ceived no pub­lic at­ten­tion un­til Wed­nes­day, when his fam­ily held a news con­fer­ence and re­leased po­lice body cam­era video and writ­ten re­ports they ob­tained through a pub­lic records re­quest.

The fa­tal en­counter hap­pened two months be­fore the death of Ge­orge Floyd in Min­nesota prompted na­tion­wide demon­stra­tions.

“I placed a phone call for my brother to get help. Not for my brother to get lynched,” Prude’s brother, Joe Prude, said at a news con­fer­ence. “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 videos show Prude, who had taken off his clothes, com­ply­ing when po­lice ask him to get on the ground and put his hands be­hind his back. Prude is ag­i­tated and shout­ing as he sits on the pave­ment in hand­cuffs for a few mo­ments as a light snow falls. “Give me your gun, I need it,” he shouts.

Then, they put a white “spit hood” over his head, a de­vice in­tended to pro­tect of­fi­cers from a de­tainee’s saliva. At the time, New York was in the early days of the coro­n­avirus pan­demic.

Prude de­mands they re­move it. Then the of­fi­cers slam Prude’s head into the street. One of­fi­cer, who is white, holds his head down against the pave­ment with both hands, say­ing “calm down” and “stop spit­ting.” An­other of­fi­cer places a knee on his back.

“Try­ing to kill me!” Prude says, his voice be­com­ing muf­fled and an­guished un­der the hood.

“OK, stop. I need it. I need it,” the prone man begs be­fore his shouts turn to whim­pers and grunts.

The of­fi­cers ap­pear to be­come con­cerned af­ter he stops mov­ing, falls silent and they no­tice wa­ter com­ing out of Prude’s mouth. “My man. You puk­ing?” one says. One of­fi­cer notes that he’s been out, naked, in the street for some time. An­other re­marks, “He feels pretty cold.”

His head had been held down by an of­fi­cer for just over two min­utes, the video shows.

The of­fi­cers then re­move the hood and his hand­cuffs and medics can then be seen per­form­ing CPR be­fore he’s loaded into an am­bu­lance.

Spit hoods have been scru­ti­nized as a fac­tor in the deaths of sev­eral pris­on­ers in the U.S. and other coun­tries in re­cent years.

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.

Prude had just ar­rived in Rochester for a visit with his brother. He was kicked off the train be­fore it got to Rochester, in Depew, “due to his un­ruly be­hav­ior,” ac­cord­ing to an in­ter­nal af­fairs in­ves­ti­ga­tor’s re­port.

Rochester po­lice of­fi­cers took Prude into cus­tody for a men­tal health eval­u­a­tion around 7 p.m. on March 22 for sui­ci­dal thoughts — about eight hours be­fore the en­counter that led to his death. But his brother said he was only at the hospi­tal for a few hours, ac­cord­ing to the re­ports.

Po­lice re­sponded again af­ter Joe Prude called 911 at about 3 a.m. to re­port that his brother had left his house.

The city halted its in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Prude’s death when state At­tor­ney Gen­eral Leti­tia James’ of­fice be­gan its own in­ves­ti­ga­tion in April. Un­der New York law, deaths of un­armed peo­ple in po­lice cus­tody are of­ten turned over to the at­tor­ney gen­eral’s of­fice, rather than han­dled by lo­cal of­fi­cials.

James said Wed­nes­day that in­ves­ti­ga­tion is con­tin­u­ing.

One of­fi­cer wrote that they put the hood on Prude be­cause he was spit­ting con­tin­u­ously in the di­rec­tion of of­fi­cers and they were con­cerned about coro­n­avirus.

Ac­tivists de­manded that of­fi­cers in­volved be pros­e­cuted on mur­der charges and that they be re­moved from the depart­ment while the in­ves­ti­ga­tion pro­ceeds.

Prude, known to his fam­ily by the nick­name “Rell,” was a fa­ther of five adult chil­dren and had been work­ing at a ware­house within the last year, said his aunt Le­to­ria Moore.

Moore knew her nephew had some psy­cho­log­i­cal is­sues. Still, when he called two days be­fore his death, “he was the nor­mal Rell that I knew,” Moore said.

“I didn’t know what was the sit­u­a­tion, why he was go­ing through what he was go­ing through that night, but I know he didn’t de­serve to be killed by the po­lice,” she said.


In images taken from po­lice body cam­era videos, Rochester, N.Y., po­lice of­fi­cers hold down Daniel Prude on March 23.

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