Seven cops in NY's Rochester suspended as Black man’s suffocation video roils city

The police body camera footage showed the man, Daniel Prude, handcuffed and sitting in a street, wearing nothing but a white hood

The New York Times September 04, 2020 19:39:23 IST
Seven cops in NY's Rochester suspended as Black man’s suffocation video roils city

A makeshift memorial is seen in Rochester, New York State, near the site where Daniel Prude was restrained by police officers. AP

Rochester, New York: Seven Rochester police officers were suspended on Thursday in the suffocation of a Black man as he was being detained in March, although the mayor and senior state officials faced escalating questions about why more than five months passed before action was taken.

The man, Daniel Prude, who was having a psychotic episode, was handcuffed by officers after he ran into the street naked in the middle of the cold night and told at least one passerby that he had the coronavirus. Prude began spitting, and the officers responded by pulling a mesh hood over his head, according to police body camera footage.

When he tried to rise, the officers forced Prude face down on the ground, one of them pushing his head to the pavement, the video footage showed. Prude was held down by the police for two minutes and had to be resuscitated. He died a week later at the hospital.

His death did not receive widespread attention until Wednesday, when his family released raw police videos of the encounter, which they had obtained through an open records request. The scene — a Black man, handcuffed and sitting in a street, wearing nothing but a white hood — seemed a shocking combination of physical helplessness and racist imagery from another era.

Rochester, a city of 200,000 in Western New York, became the latest city to be roiled by the death of a Black person in police custody, with protesters taking to the streets on Wednesday and Thursday.

Seven cops in NYs Rochester suspended as Black mans suffocation video roils city

A Rochester police officer puts a hood over the head of Daniel Prude, on March 23, 2020, in Rochester, New York State. AP

The disciplinary action against the seven officers was the first in response to Prude’s death. In a news conference Thursday afternoon, Mayor Lovely Warren apologized to the Prude family.

On Wednesday, state Attorney General Letitia James made her first statement on the case, offering condolences to Prude’s family and promising “a fair and independent investigation.”

Investigations into police-related killings of unarmed civilians in New York are overseen by James’ office. In Prude’s case, James’ investigation began in April, and is continuing.

With the release of the camera footage, Joe Prude’s assessment of that night in March was filled with outrage. “I placed a phone call to get my brother help,” he told reporters on Wednesday, “not to have my brother lynched.”

Sarah Maslin Nir, Michael Wilson, Troy Closson and Jesse McKinley c.2020 The New York Times Company

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