Rochester, New York, Mayor Lovely Warren suspended seven police officers Thursday for their involvement in the March death of Daniel Prude, a Black man with mental health problems. The case received little attention until Wednesday, when Prude’s family showed footage from police body cameras obtained through public records requests. The video shows police putting a spit bag over Prude’s head after he’s handcuffed, then holding his face to the ground for two minutes, until he became unresponsive. Police, resending to a call from Prude’s brother, found him running naked in the street.
Prude died after his family took him off life support, seven days after police held him to the ground with the bag over his head. The Monroe County Office of the Medical Examiner ruled the death a homicide caused by “complications of asphyxia in the setting of physical restraint,” with excited delirium and acute PCP intoxication as contributing factors. Prude’s brother compared it to a “lynching.”
Warren said she was unaware that police had been involved in Prude’s death until Aug. 4, saying Police Chief La’Ron Singletary had portrayed it as a drug overdose. Prude “was failed by the police department, our mental health-care system, our society, and he was failed by me,” Warren said, also blaming “institutional and structural racism.” She said she had suspended the officers with pay because of contract rules and suggested the police union might file suit anyway. “I understand that the union may sue the city for this. They shall feel free to do so.”
Protesters gathered for a second night outside the police headquarters in Rochester, and the Rochester police again responded with tear gas and less-lethal pellets. New York Attorney General Leticia James said her office has been investigating Prude’s death, and Singletary said his department is undertaking a related criminal and internal investigation of Prude’s death. Peter Weber