Another one, especially gruesome. When police in Rochester, NY were called on March 22 to help Daniel Prude, a naked black man suffering a mental health crisis, they ordered him prone on the cold wet ground, cuffed him, put a hood over his head, and pinned him down on the back for over two minutes as he cried, begged, prayed, grew still and finally died. Prude, 41, had just taken a train from Chicago, where he worked in a warehouse and had five adult children, to visit his brother Joe in Rochester. In recent years, he'd been traumatized by the deaths of his mother and a second brother who'd died too soon; his aunt said he was "a bright, loving person...always there for us when we needed him" who had been visiting Joe more often to stay connected to family. But when he arrived, he acted strangely and threatened to harm himself. Around 7 p.m., Joe called 911, and police took him to the hospital on "a mental hygiene arrest." He was released a few hours later.
At 3 a.m., Joe called police again after Daniel ran out of the house; when they got there, Joe told police Daniel was having a mental health crisis and was only a danger to himself, and told them not to kill his brother. Grisly police video, belatedly released Wednesday by the Prude family and local activists Free the People ROC after a public records request, shows what happened next. Police found Daniel walking naked, bleeding, disoriented down the street as snow swirls. Officer Mark Vaughn aims his taser and tells Prude to get on the ground. Daniel says "Yes sir, yes sir" and quickly splays face down on the ground. Vaughn says, "Put your hands behind your back, don't move, man." Daniel says, "Yes sir, yes sir" and quickly, obediently throws his hands behind his back. He's cuffed, 5 or 6 cops stand over Daniel joking and laughing, and Vaughn remarks, "That was easy and fast.”
When Daniel starts twisting and squirming, the cops swarm him. One slams his head onto the pavement; another puts his knee on Daniel's back, saying, "Calm down, calm down." They produce a "spit hood" - this was early in the pandemic - and pull it over Daniel's head. He grows agitated, rambling, crying, calling to Jesus, wailing "Trying to kill me!" before his voice grows muffled, then silent. The cops notice water's coming from his mouth - "My man, you puking?" - and he's still and cold. Medics start performing CPR, and he's loaded into an ambulance. Seven days later, his family took him off life support. An autopsy report called his death a homicide, with the cause "complications of asphyxia in the setting of physical restraint." He also had a small amount of PCP in his system. He had never resisted, threatened, reached into a vehicle. "How could you see him," asked his brother, "and not say the man is defenseless?" When a family calls for mental health assistance, said activist Stanley Martin, "Murdering people should not be the result.”
Under a post-Eric Garner law governing deaths of unarmed people at the hands of police, the city's investigation was turned over to Attorney General Letitia James in April. On Thursday, almost six months after Daniel's murder and a day after release of the video, Mayor Lovely Warren said she was - finally - suspending seven officers involved: “Mr. Daniel Prude was failed by the police department, our mental health care system, our society and he was failed by me.” Under contract rules, the cops will still be paid. Protesters at her press conference were roughly arrested; they were also arrested and teargassed the day before, when Joe Prude held an anguished news conference. "That was a lynching - that was cold-blooded murder,” he said. "How many more brothers gotta die for society to understand that this needs to stop?" The family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the city; like too many others, they say they want long-delayed justice for what remains an untenable American reality. "Racist police officers saw a black man in need," said Daniel's 18-year-old daughter Tashyra, "and decided he didn't deserve to live."
Warning: Video very disturbing.
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