Police used ‘spit hood’ on Black man who died of asphyxiation: What we know about Daniel Prude’s death

Here’s what we know (and don’t know) about the death of Daniel Prude in March, which was ruled a homicide after Rochester police forcibly restrained him.

ROCHESTER, N.Y. – A 41-year-old Black man died in March after being forcibly restrained by police officers.

Daniel Prude, who suffered from acute mental health problems, was handcuffed naked by officers in the early morning hours of Monday, March 23. He was detained during an 11-minute confrontation involving six police officers and two emergency medical technicians.

Force was applied for several minutes to Prude’s head and back as he lay on the pavement. He lost consciousness after officers cut off his breathing and was transported to a hospital, where he died a week later.

Prude’s death was ruled a homicide, according to the autopsy report.

There are similarities between Prude’s death and that of George Floyd, who died in late May in the custody of Minneapolis police officers. Floyd’s death led to nationwide protests, including weekly rallies in Rochester and other locations in upstate New York.

Activists have called for massive police changes, and the state of New York repealed a law that shielded police personnel and disciplinary files from public view for decades.

  

What happened?

Prude had left his brother’s home wearing long underwear, a tank top and socks. He took off the clothes, a witness told police. Police suspect Prude broke windows at a business before officers found him. Several people encountered him, and at least one person called 911 to report his erratic actions, according to police.

At 3:16 a.m., a police officer ordered Prude to lie on the ground and put his hands behind his back. Prude complied and was handcuffed.

Officers attempted to make a mental health arrest. Prude was agitated and spitting. Officers covered his head with a white “spit hood” meant to protect police from body fluids.

Officers stood around Prude in a semicircle, body camera footage shows. He yelled at officers and attempted to get to his feet. Officers pushed him over and held him on the ground.

One officer used both hands to push the side of Prude’s head against the pavement. Another officer used his knee to hold down Prude’s torso, and a third held down his legs.

Prude’s head was held down for three minutes. He was then turned over and loaded into an ambulance 11 minutes after the first officer arrived.

  

How many police officers were there?

There were six officers at the scene: Mark Vaughn, Paul Ricotta, Andrew Specksgoor, Josiah Harris, Troy Talladay and Sgt. Michael Magri.

Attorney Elliot Shields, who represents Prude’s family, said he obtained 80 minutes of body camera footage from an open records request filed with the city of Rochester.

During a news conference Wednesday, Shields said the Prude family “will sue everyone who is responsible for Daniel Prude’s death.”

Who was Daniel Prude?

Prude, a resident of Chicago, arrived in Rochester via an Amtrak train March 22 to stay with his brother.

He was not married and had no children. He is survived by his sister Tameshay Prude and his father, Joe Louis Cole, who live in Chicago, and by his brother Joseph Prude, who lives in Rochester.

  

What did the medical examiner conclude? 

A low level of the powerful hallucinogen phencyclidine, or PCP, was found in Prude’s system. The autopsy report listed “acute phencyclidine intoxication” as a complication in his death.

Monroe County Medical Examiner Nadia Granger ruled Prude’s death a homicide caused by “complications of asphyxia in the setting of physical restraint.” 

Could the police officers face charges?

That will be up to state officials. The New York state Attorney General’s office has been investigating the case since April but has made no public statement about it. The investigation is not likely to wrap up for several months.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order in July to investigate the incident.

Family members react A ‘cold-blooded murder,’ Prude’s brother says

Joseph Prude described his brother’s death as a “cold-blooded murder” and accused officers of handling Daniel “like a damned animal” Wednesday morning at a news conference.

He said he had called 911 after his brother exited his home. “I placed a phone call to get my brother help, not to have my brother lynched,” he said. “How many more brothers have to die? This has got to stop.”

He asked who would be held accountable for his brother’s death, why it was “covered up” and how an officer could treat another person so inhumanely.

9 arrested protesting Prude’s death 

Protesters gathered Wednesday outside Rochester’s Public Safety Building, which serves as police headquarters. Free the People ROC said several of its organizers were briefly taken into custody after they entered the building while Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren was speaking to the media.

Iman Abid, regional director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, was among those taken into custody and released. Nine people were arrested. and one person was reportedlyREPORTED BY WHOM? taken to a hospital

Police clashed with protesters outside the Public Safety Building and deployed pepper spray to disperse them

Demonstrators gathered at the spot where Prude died, chanting, dancing and praying. They stayed late into the night.

Activists expect rallies to continue in the coming days. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Park has been the hub of most of the activity in the rallies against institutional racism, police abuse and misconduct.

  

Rochester saw a wave of protests in the wake of the Floyd slaying. On May 30, five days after Floyd died, thousands of people gathered downtown at MLK Park.

Marchers crossed downtown to the Public Safety Building. The rally devolved into chaos as vehicles, some belonging to police, were burned and flipped. 

More than 20 people were arrested after more than 80 businesses across Monroe County were looted. Some face federal arson charges.

Subsequent rallies have been much calmer. A protest in July shut down Interstate 490 in downtown Rochester for 15 minutes.