Protests planned after video shows fatal arrest of Black man in upstate New York

A view of police cars parked outside City Public Safety Building following the death of a Black man, Daniel Prude, after police put a spit hood over his head during an arrest on March 23, in Rochester, New York, U.S., September 3, 2020. (REUTERS/Lindsay DeDario)

Protests were planned on Thursday following the release of a video showing the arrest of a Black man who died by asphyxiation in March after police in upstate New York put a hood over his head as he knelt on the ground, handcuffed and naked.

The family of the deceased man, Daniel Prude, on Wednesday called for the arrest of the police officers involved in his death, which came seven days after the incident.

The Monroe County medical examiner ruled Prude’s death a homicide caused by “complications of asphyxia in the setting of physical restraint,” according to an autopsy report, the New York Times reported.

Prude’s death occurred on March 30, seven days after his arrest and two months before the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police spurred international protests against police brutality and racial injustice in the United States.

Activists, who were planning protests in Rochester and New York City’s Times Square on Thursday, have called for the officers who arrested Prude to be arrested and charged in his death.

After the video’s release on Wednesday, protests broke out in downtown Rochester, a city near Lake Ontario about 300 miles north of New York City. Police released pepper spray on the demonstrators and arrested nine people, the Democrat and Chronicle reported.

Prude’s family released body camera footage of the arrest on Wednesday, which they obtained after filing a freedom of information act request, CBS-affiliate WROC-TV reported.

The video showed Prude, naked, kneeling on the ground with his hands behind his back and shouting as a group of officers stood around him.

One officer was heard saying, “You want to put it on him?” Then an officer placed a “spit hood” over Prude’s head, which the Democrat and Chronicle newspaper reported was intended to protect from possible coronavirus transmission.

In the video, Prude could be heard shouting, “Take this…off my face!” and “You’re trying to kill me!” before his shouts turned to cries and became muffled. Officers were heard saying “Calm down” and “stop spitting.”

Later, the video showed an officer kneeling on Prude’s back while Prude was silent and snow fell around them. Someone was heard saying, “start CPR.” Minutes later, the video showed Prude being loaded into an ambulance on a stretcher.

Rochester police chief La’Ron Singletary told reporters on Wednesday that internal and criminal investigations were underway.

“I know that there’s a rhetoric that is out there that this is a cover-up. This is not a cover-up,” Singletary said.

Rochester police declined further comment on Thursday, and a lawyer for Prude’s family did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

On Wednesday, Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren called the video “very disturbing.”

“We’re going to do everything we can to hold someone accountable,” Warren told reporters.

Prude’s family told reporters that Prude had been struggling with mental health. His brother, Joe Prude, said he had called police because he was worried when his brother left home that night.

“I placed a phone call for my brother to get help, not for my brother to get lynched,” Joe Prude said.

Prude’s autopsy report said “excited delirium” and acute intoxication by phencyclidine, or the drug PCP, were also contributing factors to his death, the New York Times reported.

“Mr. Prude needed therapeutic intervention. Instead what he got was execution,” Rev. Lewis Stewart, president of United Christian Leadership Ministry of Western New York, told reporters on Thursday.

New York Attorney General Letitia James said in a statement that her office has been investigating Prude’s death, as New York State Law requires whenever police are involved in a civilian’s death.

“We will work tirelessly to provide the transparency and accountability that all our communities deserve,” James said.

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