Amid a nationwide discussion of police brutality and racism, Daniel Prude’s family held a press conference in September to highlight disturbing video footage from the police encounter that preceded his death in Rochester, New York.
The video, along with police reports released by Mr Prude’s family and local activists, drew renewed attention to the case of Mr Prude, a 41-year-old black man who died in March after a confrontation during which of the agents put a net. hood over his face and pressed his head against the sidewalk.
Mr Prude was visiting Rochester from Chicago on March 23, when he ran out of his brother’s house, without shoes and shirtless in an apparently erratic state. His brother Joe called 911. Police then received another call about a naked man running down the street screaming he had coronavirus.
The officers who responded encountered Mr. Prude, disjointed and apparently delusional, and easily handcuffed him. When he started to spit, they covered his head with a hood, and when he tried to stand up, they pinned him face down on the ground, one pushing his head onto the sidewalk, according to the video footage.
Mr. Prude stopped breathing after two minutes. Although doctors resuscitated him at the scene, he died a week later in a hospital.
Who was Daniel Prude?
Mr. Prude, a father of five, lived in Chicago, where he grew up in a public housing complex. He too was one of five children, two of whom died in tragic incidents that shocked Mr. Prude.
As an adult, Mr. Prude worked in warehouses and factories on the southwest side of Chicago, and friends recalled working to help find jobs for others in the neighborhood. He lived with his sister, Tameshay, and grew up near his teenage sons.
In September 2018, one of Mr. Prude’s nephews committed suicide in the house they shared. Friends of Mr Prude said that after the nephew’s death he used phencyclidine, or PCP more and more, and his behavior became more erratic. Before going to Rochester, his sister had kicked him out of her home after a series of paranoid explosions.
Why was Mr. Prude in Rochester?
Mr. Prude arrived in Rochester the day before his death. His brother, Joe, picked him up from a shelter in nearby Buffalo after Mr. Prude was kicked off a train from Chicago, Joe Prude told police.
Soon after arriving, Mr. Prude started behaving erratically, accusing his brother of wanting to kill him. Joe Prude had his brother driven to the hospital for an assessment, but was released within hours and returned to Joe Prude’s home.
Mr. Prude seemed to have calmed down. But hours after returning home, he asked for a cigarette, and when his brother got up to get one, he kicked in a back door, wearing only a tank top and long pants. Joe Prude called the police for help.
What does the video footage show?
Officers found Mr. Prude naked on the street shortly after 3 a.m. They ordered him to lie on his stomach, and Constable Mark Vaughn handcuffed him without incident or resistance.
But when Mr Prude, who had told at least one person he had the coronavirus, fidgeted and started spitting in the street, officers placed a ‘hood’ over his head, according to video from police body cameras.
Mr. Prude started driving down the road, asking for the hood to be removed. Then, after yelling “give me the gun” to the police, he tried to stand up again, according to the footage. Three officers pinned him to the ground, Officer Vaughn holding his head against the sidewalk.
Mr Prude pleaded to be released, but appeared to have difficulty breathing, according to the pictures. Her words turned into a gurgling sound, then stopped. After two minutes, Mr. Prude was no longer moving or speaking, and an officer asked, “Are you okay, man?”
When paramedics arrived, Mr. Prude had no heartbeat and they began CPR. He was resuscitated and taken to hospital.
How did he die?
Mr Prude died on March 30 after being removed from the life support system, seven days after being detained.
The Monroe County medical examiner said Mr Prude’s death was a homicide caused by “complications of asphyxiation as part of physical restraint,” according to an autopsy report.
The report also stated that “excited delirium” and acute PCP intoxication contributed to his death.
After Mr Prude’s death, an unofficial police account revealed that Mr Prude suffered from an overdose while in custody. The Rochester Police Department made no public comment on Mr Prude’s death and treated him for months as an overdose.
An internal investigation carried out by the police department in late April quickly cleared the police officers involved of their wrongdoing.
Since the footage was released in September, which was obtained through a request for public records, Mr Prude’s family have accused officials of covering up his death to protect the police officers involved.
What happened to the officers involved?
Seven Rochester police officers involved in the meeting with Mr Prude were suspended on September 3, the day after the body camera footage was released and more than five months after Mr Prude’s death.
Two days later, New York Attorney General Letitia James announced that she would be setting up a grand jury to examine the evidence for Mr. Prude’s death.
Then, on September 8, Rochester Police Chief La’Ron D. Singletary, his deputy and a commanding officer all resigned. Two other senior officials in the department were demoted.
Mr. Singletary had denied any wrongdoing on the part of the officers. But documents from a 323-page internal review showed how he and other Rochester officials worked to keep footage of the meeting with Mr. Prude out of public view.
Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren released an internal review of how Mr Prude’s death was handled and abruptly fired Mr Singletary two weeks ahead of his due date. (Ms Warren, a Democrat, was indicted on October 2 on two unrelated criminal campaign finance charges, adding to the city’s political turmoil.)
Tameshay Prude, Mr. Prude’s sister, filed a civil rights lawsuit in United States District Court against the city of Rochester, Mr. Singletary and the officers involved in the encounter, including Constable Vaughn.
A grand jury was summoned to state court in November, according to local media. In December, Ms James’ office released six videos showing images of the bodies and dashboard cameras of six Rochester police officers.