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Black man suffocates after police cover his head with hood and push his face into the ground

Body camera footage from a fatal March arrest has prompted protests in Rochester, New York.

Daniel Prude’s family Video screenshot / Twitter

Body camera footage of the fatal March arrest of a Black man has been released, prompting protests in Rochester, New York. Daniel Prude died on March 30, one week after police handcuffed him, covered his head with a “spit hood” and pressed his face into the street for two minutes. An autopsy report from the Monroe County Medical Examiner’s Office has ruled his death a homicide by asphyxiation and physical restraint.

Joe Prude — Daniel’s brother — called police concerned for his brother’s wellbeing after Daniel had left his house. Daniel was visiting Joe in Rochester and had only recently been released from the hospital, after undergoing a mental health evaluation for suicidal thoughts. Police found Daniel naked in the street.

“I placed a phone call for my brother to get help. Not for my brother to get lynched,” Joe said at a press conference Wednesday (Sept. 2). “How did you see him and not directly say, ‘The man is defenseless, buck naked on the ground. He’s cuffed up already. Come on.’ How many more brothers gotta die for society to understand that this needs to stop?”

The disturbing body camera footage shows that Daniel had complied with officers, was sitting on the ground and was handcuffed. He became upset when police covered his head with a bag-like “spit hood,” which they say they were using because of the spread of COVID-19. Daniel tried to stand up while handcuffed and three officers tackled him to the ground, pressing his head down for two minutes. Officers say he began vomiting and appeared non-responsive shortly after. They call in an EMT and started chest compressions, but he was pronounced brain dead at the hospital and taken off life support a week later.

Daniel’s family say he was suffering a mental health episode when police confronted him that night. His autopsy report also cites excited delirium and acute PCP intoxication as contributing factors to his death. Elliot Shields — one of the Prude family’s attorneys — said on Wednesday (Sept. 2) that they are in the preliminary stages of filing a wrongful death suit against the department. His family is calling for the firing and arrest of all officers involved.

“The police have shown us over and over again that they are not equipped to handle individuals with mental health concerns,” Ashley Gantt of Free the People ROC said at Wednesday’s news conference. “These officers are trained to kill and not to deescalate. These officers are trained to ridicule, instead of supporting Mr. Daniel Prude.”

Free the People ROC — a Black Lives Matter-affiliated group — and other organizations have rallied behind Daniel’s family, as the footage of his arrest reveals yet another horrific Black man’s death while in police custody.

“What makes me less than the next man in this American society? It doesn’t make me lesser than you — because my skin is darker than yours, my melanin is better than yours. I don’t care what it is; we all human,” Joe told reporters. “I’m not no animal and that’s what the fu*k they treated my brother like — a damn animal.”

The family’s lawyer said they encountered delays when trying to obtain the body camera footage of his arrest, which is why his death is just now coming to light. Furthermore, an investigation into the incident by city officials was halted when the New York state attorney’s office launched their own. Their investigation is ongoing.

“I want everyone to understand that at no point in time did we feel that this was something that we wanted not to disclose,” Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren said at the press briefing. “We are precluded from getting involved in it until that agency has completed their investigation.”

Daniel’s aunt — Letoria Moore — remembered him as a “bright, loving person, just family-oriented, always there for us when we needed him” that “never hurt or harmed anybody.” According to Associated Press, Daniel was a father of five adult children and had been working at a warehouse.

Moore knew that Daniel suffered mental illness and said he had been traumatized by the recent deaths of his mother and a brother.

“I didn’t know what was the situation, why he was going through what he was going through that night, but I know he didn’t deserve to be killed by the police,” she said.

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