A Black man 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 on 30 March 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.
“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?” Prude’s brother, Joe Prude, asked at a news conference Wednesday.
Daniel Prude was from Chicago and had just arrived in Rochester for a visit with his family. Police responded after Joe Prude called 911 to report that his brother had left his house and was experiencing mental health issues.
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 and officers let him writhe as he sits on the pavement in handcuffs for a few moments while a light snow falls.
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 officer’s slam Prude’s head into the street. One officer holds his head down against the pavement with both hands, saying, “Stop spitting,” as Prude’s shouts turn to whimpers and grunts. Another officer places a knee on his back. The officers appear to become concerned when they notice water coming out of Prude’s mouth.
“My man. You puking?” one says.
Prude stops moving and falls silent. 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. Medics can then be seen on the video performing CPR before he’s loaded into an ambulance.
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.
Letitia James, the New York attorney general, said Wednesday that an investigation into Prude’s death by her office is continuing.
Spit hoods have been scrutinized as a factor in the deaths of several prisoners in the US and other countries in recent years.
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.
Still, activists demanded that officers involved with Prude’s death be prosecuted on murder charges and that they be removed from the department while the investigation proceeds. Protesters gathered Wednesday outside Rochester’s Public Safety Building, which serves as police headquarters.
“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. These officers are trained to ridicule, instead of supporting Mr Daniel Prude,” said Ashley Gantt, of Free the People ROC, at the news conference with Prude’s family.