Family releases video, papers after Black man in NY died in police custody from asphyxiation

ROCHESTER, N.Y. — A Black man, who had run naked through the streets of a western New York city in March, died of asphyxiation after police placed a hood on him and pinned him to the ground, according to video and records released Wednesday by the man’s family.

The family of 41-year-old Daniel T. Prude demanded that the Rochester Police Department officers involved in the incident should be fired and charged with murder, the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle reported.

Prude, who was on life support, died March 30, seven days after his encounter with police in Rochester, according to The Associated Press. Prude’s family obtained written reports and police body camera footage through a public records request and released that information through their attorneys on Wednesday, WROC reported.

Joe Prude said his brother was cut off from oxygen for nearly 20 minutes, WHAM reported.

“They treated my brother like a piece of garbage,” Prude said at a news conference. “What do you to garbage? You throw it out. So, that’s basically what they’ve done to my brother.”

Joe Prude said his brother was from Chicago and had come to western New York to visit family members, WHAM reported. He said he called first responders to help his brother in the midst of his mental health crisis. In retrospect, Prude says he wishes he’d never made that call.

“I placed the phone call for my brother to get help, not for my brother to get lynched,” Joe Prude said. “When I say get lynched, that was full-fledged, murder, cold-blooded -- nothing other than cold-blooded murder. The man is defenseless, naked on the ground, cuffed up already. I mean come on, how many brothers got to die for society to understand that this needs to stop? You killed a defenseless black man, a father’s son, a brother’s brother, a nephew’s uncle.”

An autopsy report from the Monroe County Medical Examiner’s Office ruled Prude’s death a homicide, WHAM reported. The cause of death was listed as “complications of asphyxia in the setting of physical restraint,” excited delirium and acute phencyclidine (PCP) intoxication.

“We are in need of accountability for the wrongful death and murder of Daniel Prude. He was treated inhumanely and without dignity,” Ashley Gantt, a community organizer from Free the People Roc and the New York Civil Liberties Union, said at the news conference. “These officers killed someone and are still patrolling in our community.”

Gantt alleged that what happened to Prude was not an isolated event in Rochester, the Democrat and Chronicle reported.

“The Rochester Police Department has shown time and again that they are not trained to deal with mental health crises,” Gantt said. “These officers are trained to kill and not to de-escalate. Daniel’s case is the epitome of what is wrong with this system and today we stand firmly seeking justice for Daniel and his family, and for all the victims who have been murdered and terrorized by the Rochester Police Department.”

Rochester Police Chief La’Ron Singletary said the New York State Attorney General’s office is investigating the incident, WROC reported.

Videos showed Daniel Prude, who had removed his clothes, obeying a police order to sit on the ground and put his hands behind his back. After Prude shouted for a few minutes, police officers put a “spit hood” over his head. The hood is intended to protect officers from a person’s saliva; New York was in the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic when Daniel Prude was detained.

At least three officers held Prude prone and forced his head and chest onto the pavement for several moments, the Democrat and Chronicle reported. After a few minutes, police noticed Prude was not breathing, the newspaper reported.

On April 16, Singletary said his department was told that the State Attorney General’s Office would be investigating the case.

“We don’t have a problem with holding anyone accountable, but the investigation has to take its course,” Singletary said at the time.

During a news briefing Wednesday, Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren said she had seen footage of the officers’ fatal restraint “a while ago.”

“It’s a disturbing video,” Warren said. “I can sympathize and empathize with the family.

“I want everyone to understand that at no point in time did we feel that this was something that we wanted not to disclose,” Warren said. “We are precluded from getting involved in it until that agency (the attorney general’s office) has completed their investigation.”