Family calls for Rochester police to be charged after Black man dies during mental health emergency while in custody

Body camera footage of the March incident was just released.

September 2, 2020, 9:04 PM

The family of a Black man who died after Rochester, New York, police arrested him during a mental health emergency earlier this year is calling for charges after body camera footage showed officers pinning Daniel Prude on the ground and placing a bag over his head before he lost consciousness.

Officers responded to a 911 call made by Prude's family on March 23 after they said he was going through a mental health issue. The body camera footage first obtained by the Democrat and Chronicle on Wednesday showed several officers approach Prude, 41, who was naked and kneeling on the cold street.

Prude appears in the video to comply with the officers' orders and questions as they placed him in handcuffs. He began to shout and spit at the officers who then placed a spit bag over his head, the video showed.

Three officers are then seen pushing Prude into the ground and pinning him while he continues to shout and spit and eventually vomit, according to the video and police report. Prude appears to go lifeless minutes later.

An ambulance is later seen arriving and a paramedic attempts to do CPR before Prude is put on a stretcher and driven away. Prude died a week later and the Monroe County medical examiner declared his death a homicide due to "complications of asphyxia," according to the preliminary autopsy report.

Joe Prude, Daniel's brother, called the incident "a full-fledged, ongoing cold-blooded murder," during a news conference Wednesday and called for the officers to be charged for his death.

"I placed a phone call for my brother to get help, not for my brother to get lynched," he said.

Daniel Prude is shown in an undated photo released by his family on Sept. 2, 2020.
Prude Family

Joe Prude said that his brother was visiting from Chicago and was going through a mental health crisis. The police report said Joe Prude told officers his brother "was using drugs and was suicidal."

Joe Prude said he admitted his brother to a hospital for help hours before the incident, but Daniel Prude was released after a short time. Joe Prude added he told officers that his brother was not a threat to anyone but himself and asked them not to kill him.

"They knew the mental distress he was in," he told reporters.

During an earlier news conference, Rochester Police Chief La’Ron Singletary said Wednesday that the officers involved in the incident have not been suspended and denied allegations that his office was trying to cover it up.

"We took the investigation seriously since day one," Singletary told reporters. "When the incident occurred on March 23 around 3 a.m. on Jefferson Avenue, that morning I ordered a criminal investigation and internal investigation."

He said the investigation was transferred to the state attorney general's office, which is the protocol in New York anytime a person is killed while in custody.

Protesters reacting to the death of Daniel Prude clash with police outside the public safety building in Rochester, N.Y., Sept. 2, 2020.
Gino Fanelli/CITY Rochester NY

Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren called the video "disturbing" and said they are still waiting for Attorney General Letitia James' office to give a report.

"I know they are working on it and I know that our law and police department have been working with them to move this along," Warren said at the news conference.

James said in a statement that her office is actively investigating the incident.

"As with every investigation, we will follow the facts of this case and ensure a complete and thorough examination of all relevant parties. We will work tirelessly to provide the transparency and accountability that all our communities deserve," she said in the statement.

PHOTO: Joe Prude, brother of Daniel Prude, and activists from Free the People ROC held a press conference to draw attention to the case of Daniel Prude in Rochester, N.Y., Sept. 02, 2020.
Joe Prude, brother of Daniel Prude, and activists from Free the People ROC held a press conference to draw attention to the case of Daniel Prude in Rochester, N.Y., Sept. 02, 2020. Prude died in police custody after being arrested in the midst of a mental health crisis on March 23.

Protesters demanded justice outside the Rochester police station Wednesday for Daniel Prude, who was killed two months before George Floyd died similarly during a filmed arrest in Minneapolis.

"Who do you serve, who do you protect?" the protesters shouted at the police.

Elliot Shields, the attorney representing the Prude family, said they intend to sue "everyone responsible for Daniel's death."

"I watched the video with them and it was one of the most difficult experiences of my life watching the family react to seeing their brother and son murdered by RPD while other officers, paramedics and EMTs and no one granted him any basic humanity," he said at a news conference.

ABC News' Rachel Katz and Cheryl Gendron contributed to this report.

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