Seven police officers in Rochester, New York, involved in the suffocation death of a Black man in March have been suspended, the city’s mayor announced on Thursday.
“Mr. (Daniel) Prude lost his life in our city. He lost his life because of the actions of our police officers,” Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren said in a news conference.
Prude died on March 30 after he was taken off life support just seven days after coming into contact with the police, AP reports. A father of five, Prude’s death only became public this Wednesday after his family released police body camera video taken during his arrest as well as written reports they got via a public records request.
The 41-year-old’s death comes amid protests against the excessive police use of deadly force and racial discrimination in the deaths of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Rayshard Brooks, among others.
Police reports say Prude was on March 22 taken to a hospital for a mental health evaluation after having suicidal thoughts. His brother Joe later called the police around 3 am after Prude ran out of his house in Rochester.
In the footage released by the family, Prude is seen without clothes during his encounter with the police, who asked him to get on the ground and put his hands behind his back. He is then seen seated on the ground, still naked and shouting to be freed. He later spits on the ground, compelling the police officers to put a spit hood over his head due to what the officers later said were concerns over coronavirus.
Prude is then seen writhing on the ground. He later sits up and asks one of the officers for a gun. An officer then places his knee on Prude amid cries from Prude for help. The police officers soon see water coming out of Prude’s mouth, and paramedics arrived at the scene.
Prude died seven days later in a hospital. A medical examiner ruled his death as a homicide caused by “complications of asphyxia in the setting of physical restraint”, according to a copy of the autopsy report obtained by lawyers for his family.
The report also listed “excited delirium” and “acute intoxication by phencyclidine, or PCP”, as causes of death.
Before his death, Prude, who was from Chicago, was working at a warehouse. He had, however, been traumatized by the deaths of his mother and a brother in recent years, and had even lost another brother before that, his aunt Letoria Moore said in an interview.
“He was just a bright, loving person, just family-oriented, always there for us when we needed him,” Moore said of his nephew, who was otherwise known as Bell.
Prude’s death is currently being investigated by the office of attorney general Letitia James.
In a press conference, Prude’s brother said: “I placed a phone call for my brother to get help. Not for my brother to get lynched.
“How did you see him and not directly say, ‘the man is defenceless, 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?”