Rochester, NY — When Daniel Prude died on March 30, 2020, not a single mainstream media network covered it and it was but a blip in local media. It wasn't until his family fought for months to find out what happened that Prude's case finally saw the light of day. In the midst of a chemically-induced mental health crisis, Prude was compliant and sat on the ground when asked by police and placed into handcuffs. Moments later, he'd have a hood put on his head while cops shoved his face into the pavement until he stopped breathing and eventually died.
Seven days after Prude stopped breathing on his own, he would die on life support.
Now, just one month before the anniversary of Prude's death, New York Attorney General Letitia James announced a grand jury voted not to indict any of the officers involved.
The grand jury's decision sparked immediate protests Tuesday night, prompting street closures as citizens called for change.
"This is not what we expected, this is not what we wanted, and until there is justice in this system, they will not get any peace from us because it is our duty to fight for our freedom and abolish the system from the ground up," one of the protesters, Jay Johnson said.
According to WHAM, in statement, Interim Rochester Police Chief Cynthia Herriott-Sullivan said while the department respects the decision of the grand jury, it will continue with its investigation. The officers involved remain on leave.
As TFTP reported at the time, Prude's brother called police that evening to get help for his brother. This is a decision he now regrets.
“I placed a phone call for my brother to get help. Not for my brother to get lynched,” Prude’s brother, Joe Prude, said at a news conference. “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?”
Joe Prude was far more qualified to get his brother under control than the officers and he should have never called them to do it for him. Sadly, this type of scenario plays out like a broken record as family members rely on police officers to help their loved ones and "help" is often times last on the list.
As the video shows, Prude is initially compliant with police and sits down on the ground, allowing officers to handcuff him. However, he slowly becomes agitated after officers put a hood on his head.
It is unclear if Prude attempted to spit on officers prior to having the hood placed over his head. However, this incident took place as COVID-19 deaths began mounting in the state, so officers said they placed the hood on his head for their protection.
“Give me your gun, I need it,” Prude shouts after officers put the hood on him.
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For no apparent reason, other than dishing out punishment, officers then slam the man's head into the concrete. One officer then holds his head down against the pavement with both hands, saying “calm down” and “stop spitting.” Another officer places a knee on his back.
“Trying to kill me!” Prude says, his voice becoming muffled and anguished under the hood.
“OK, stop. I need it. I need it,” Prude begs, his voice growing softer as the air is squeezed from his body.
For over two minutes police held Prude's face to the ground with a hood over it until eventually fluid started running from his mouth and he stopped breathing.
“My man. You puking?” an officer says.
Officers then removed the hood and the handcuffs but it was too late, Prude would never start breathing on his own again and would die days later in a hospital.
According to the AP, spit hoods have been scrutinized as a factor in the deaths of several prisoners in the U.S. and other countries in recent years.
According to the report a medical examiner concluded that Prude’s death was a homicide caused by “complications of asphyxia in the setting of physical restraint.” The report lists excited delirium and acute intoxication by phencyclidine, or PCP, as contributing factors.
“The police have shown us over and over again that they are not equipped to handle individuals with mental health concerns. These officers are trained to kill, and not to deescalate. These officers are trained to ridicule, instead of supporting Mr. Daniel Prude,” Ashley Gantt of Free the People ROC said at the news conference with Prude’s family.
Sadly, she is right and that is exactly what we see in the video below.
“He was just a bright, loving person, just family-oriented, always there for us when we needed him,” Prude's aunt Letoria Moore said, and “never hurt or harmed anybody.”