Protests continued for the fifth night in Rochester, New York, with protestors calling for police reform in light of the death of Daniel Prude, a Black man, in police custody.
Prude’s death is receiving national attention after his family released a police body camera video of the incident and written reports they obtained through a public records request. The video shows Prude running down a street in Rochester, naked because of mental health distress, on March 23. A group of police officers arrives on the scene in response to a call made by Prude’s brother, Joe. The video shows Daniel Prude complying when police officers ask him to get on the ground and put his hands behind his back. Prude is shouting while he sits on the pavement in handcuffs as snow falls on his nude body. He shouts, “Give me your gun. I need it.” The police officers then put a white “spit hood” over his head. At this time, New York state was in the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic. Prude demands they remove the spit hood, according to the Associated Press. The police officer then presses his face into the pavement for approximately two minutes.
The police union head said the officers were following their training, according to AP.
Prude died March 30 after he was taken off life support, seven days after the encounter with the police. A medical examiner ruled his death a homicide as a result of asphyxiation. The report cited excited delirium and acute intoxication by phencyclidine, or PCP, as contributing factors. His death received no public attention until recently when his family held a news conference Sept. 2 along with releasing the video and police reports.
“I placed a phone call for my brother to get help, not for my brother to get lynched,” Joe Prude said at the news conference.
On Sunday night, the Rochester Police Department said over 1,000 demonstrators gathered in downtown Rochester as protestors chanted, “We are elders, and we support our youth” and “Say his name, Daniel Prude.” The march led to the City of Rochester Public Safety Building, which houses the police quarters. At the demonstration, protestors spoke about their own experiences regarding police brutality.
New York State Attorney General Letitia James announced Sept. 5 that she would set up a grand jury to consider evidence in Prude’s death. She stated that her office is actively investigating the incident.
“I share the community’s concerns about ensuring a fair and independent investigation into his death and support their right to protest,” she stated. “As with every investigation, we will follow the facts of this case and ensure a complete and thorough examination of all relevant parties. We will work tirelessly to provide the transparency and accountability that all our communities deserve.”
Prude’s death brought into question whether police officers should be responding to mental health calls. Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren promised that reforms are coming to the city’s police department, according to AP. She announced at a news conference Sept. 6 that the crisis intervention team and its budget would move from the police department to the city’s youth and recreation services.
“We had a human being in need of help, in need of compassion,” Warren said. “In that moment, we had an opportunity to protect him, to keep him warm, to bring him to safety, to begin the process of healing him and lifting him up. We have to own the fact that in that moment we did not do that.”