CRIME

Mayor suspends officers involved in man’s suffocation death

Sep 4, 2020, 6:10 AM
In this image taken from police body camera video provided by Roth and Roth LLP, a Rochester police...
In this image taken from police body camera video provided by Roth and Roth LLP, a Rochester police officer puts a hood over the head of Daniel Prude, on March 23, 2020, in Rochester, N.Y. Video of Prude, a Black man who had run naked through the streets of the 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, Sept. 2, 2020, by his family. Prude died March 30 after he was taken off life support, seven days after the encounter with police in Rochester. (Rochester Police via Roth and Roth LLP via AP)
(Rochester Police via Roth and Roth LLP via AP)

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (AP) — Seven police officers involved in the suffocation death of Daniel Prude in Rochester, New York, were suspended Thursday by the city’s mayor, who said she was misled for months about the circumstances of the fatal encounter.

Prude, 41, who was Black, died when he was taken off life support March 30. That was seven days after officers who encountered him running naked through the street put a hood over his head to stop him from spitting, then held him down for about two minutes until he stopped breathing.

Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren announced the suspensions at a news conference amid outrage that city officials had previously kept quiet about Prude’s death.

While denying a cover-up, Warren acknowledged that Prude “was failed by the police department, our mental health care system, our society, and he was failed by me.”

Hours after the announcement, a crowd of protesters unswayed by the suspensions demonstrated late into the night outside Rochester’s police headquarters. Officers doused some protesters with a chemical spray and repeatedly fired an irritant into the crowd to drive activists away from metal barricades ringing the building. Protesters protected themselves with umbrellas, dashed for cover, then returned to be fired on again.

Journalists were among those hit by pellets during the confrontation, which came on the second day of peaceful demonstrations over Prude’s death.

The mayor said she only became aware that Prude’s death involved the use of force on Aug. 4. Initially, she said, Police Chief La’Ron Singletary portrayed it as a drug overdose, which is “entirely different” than what Warren said she witnessed in body camera video. The mayor said she told the chief she was “deeply, personally and professionally disappointed” in his failure to accurately inform her what happened to Prude.

Warren said the seven officers would still be paid because of contract rules and that she was taking the action against the advice of attorneys.

“I understand that the union may sue the city for this. They shall feel free to do so,” she said.

Approached at a community event, Singletary declined to comment but said he would speak later.

Messages left with the union representing Rochester police officers were not returned.

Prude’s death happened just as the coronavirus was raging out of control in New York and received no public attention at the time.

His family held a news conference Wednesday and released police body camera video obtained through a public records request that captured his fatal interaction with the officers.

The videos and other records detailed how police had gone looking for Prude after he bolted from his brother’s home early on March 23, hours after receiving a mental health evaluation at a hospital.

When officers found Prude he was completely naked, on the street in a light snow. He lay on the ground as they handcuffed him, then grew agitated, shouting and writhing and demanding that the officers give him a gun.

Officers put a hood over his head because he had been spitting and then pressed his face into the pavement for two minutes, police video shows.

The hoods are intended to protect officers from a detainee’s saliva and have been scrutinized as a factor in the deaths of several prisoners in recent years.

The videos show Prude, his voice muffled by the hood, begging the white officer pushing his head down to let him go. As the officer, Mark Vaughn, says, “Calm down” and “Stop spitting,” Prude’s shouts became anguished whimpers and grunts.

“OK, stop. I need it. I need it,” Prude says.

The officer lets Prude go after about two minutes when he stops moving and falls silent. Officers then notice water coming out of Prude’s mouth and call over waiting medics, who start CPR.

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.

In his final months, Prude, who was known to his Chicago-based family as “Rell,” had been having mental health problems and had been going back and forth between his Chicago home and his brother’s place in Rochester, relatives said.

“My father should have been met with a mental health specialist. He should not have been killed in the street,” his 18-year-old daughter, Tashyra Prude, said in an interview with The Associated Press. “He did not deserve that. He was treated like an animal. And I want this to be a step toward justice for not only my father, but justice for people like Breonna Taylor, who were killed by the police.”

New York Attorney General Letitia James’ office took over the investigation of the death in April. It is still not complete.

“The Prude family and the greater Rochester community deserve answers, and we will continue to work around the clock to provide them,” James said in a statement Thursday.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a statement that he watched video of Prude’s fatal encounter with police Wednesday night.

“What I saw was deeply disturbing and I demand answers,” he said, adding that he was confident James’ investigation would be thorough. “For the sake of Mr. Prude’s family and the greater Rochester community I am calling for this case to be concluded as expeditiously as possible.”

Demonstrators came out on Thursday evening for a second straight night, about 200 of them gathering near the street corner where Prude was restrained by police. Some activists felt suspending the officers was not enough.

“This is a cover up and honestly our mayor, our police chief, they should be bought up on criminal charges,” said Justin Morris.

Earlier Thursday, Prude’s brother, Joe Prude, said all his younger brother wanted that morning was “somebody to grab him up and help him.”

“No matter how you look at the situation, the man was absolutely in his birthday suit, handcuffed behind his back, on the ground already, in freezing weather,” Joe Prude said. “How could you sit here and label that man a threat to you when he’s already cuffed up? How could you throw a bag over his head?”

___

Hill reported from Albany. Associated Press writers Michael R. Sisak, Ted Shaffrey and Jennifer Peltz in New York and Don Babwin in Chicago contributed to this report.

Crime

Pictured here are items seized from one of four drug busts authorities in Carbon County conducted o...
Mark Jones

Carbon County authorities make significant drug busts

Authorities in Carbon County, with a search warrant, have conducted four drug busts over the past three weeks.
27 days ago
City hall break-in window was smashed...
Devin Oldroyd

South Weber City Hall break-in causes minor damages

The South Weber City Hall break-in was reported by employees as they were showing up to work Friday morning. Walk-in traffic was closed due to the break-in.
27 days ago
Photo of a Utah highway petrol vehicle...
Dan Bammes

Former Utah Highway Patrol trooper charged with child sexual abuse

A former Utah Highway Patrol trooper is facing charges of child sexual abuse after an investigation. A statement from the Highway Patrol says Trooper Bryan Adams was placed on administrative leave shortly after the agency received a complaint of possible criminal misconduct.
27 days ago
A 38-year-old man was taken into custody Thursday by police after an alleged stabbing incident at P...
Mark Jones

Suspect arrested after allegedly stabbing another man at Pioneer Park

A 38-year-old man was arrested Thursday at Pioneer Park by Salt Lake City Police after an alleged stabbing incident.
28 days ago
A 28-year-old man was taken into custody Wednesday by Salt Lake City Police for allegedly stealing ...
Mark Jones

Man arrested for allegedly stealing a vehicle and assaulting an officer

A 28-year-old man was arrested by Salt Lake City police after he allegedly stole a vehicle in addition to assaulting a police officer.
29 days ago
Lori Vallow Daybell, center, listens during a court hearing in St. Anthony, Idaho, Tuesday, April 1...
Samantha Herrera

Trial venue for Lori Vallow Daybell moved to Ada County

The Lori Vallow Daybell trial will be held in Ada County, beginning October 11. It is scheduled to run through December 16.
29 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Prescription opioid...
Know Your Script

Prescription opioid misuse | How to protect your family from the opioid epidemic

Studies have shown that prescription opioid misuse has increased since COVID-19. So what do you need to know about these opioids?
...

Tax Tuesday: The Most Common Mistakes People Make When Filing Their Taxes

Fortunately, for most average earners, they will not end up owing overpayments received for the Child Tax Credit in 2021.
...

Tax Tuesday: How will last year’s child tax credits affect you?

Fortunately, for most average earners, they will not end up owing overpayments received for the Child Tax Credit in 2021.
...

Tax Tuesday: Key Information Before the Filing Deadline

Businesses can receive a credit of up to $5,000 per employee in 2020 and up to $21,000 per employee in 2021.
national heart month...
Intermountain Healthcare

National Heart Month: 5 Lifestyle Changes to Make Today to Keep You Heart Healthy

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. One person dies every 36 seconds in the United States from cardiovascular disease
Joseph Smith Memorial Building...
Temple Square

The Joseph Smith Memorial Building is an icon of Salt Lake City | Why hosting an event at this beautiful location will make you a hero this year

Here's why hosting an event at the iconic Joseph Smith Memorial Building in downtown Salt Lake City will make you a hero this year.
Mayor suspends officers involved in man’s suffocation death