'Unjust, Inhumane, and Avoidable': Horrifying Video of Police Killing of Daniel Prude Sparks Outrage

"If someone calls for mental health assistance, murdering people should not be the result," one racial justice advocate said.

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Members of the University of South Carolina football team join student athletes on campus during a demonstration against racial inequality and police brutality on August 31, 2020 in Columbia, South Carolina. The team organized the event in response to Jacob Blake, who was shot several times at close range in the back during an encounter with a Kenosha, Wisconsin police officer, which was caught on video. (Photo: Sean Rayford/Getty Images)

Newly released video footage showing New York police putting a hood over the head of a psychologically distraught Daniel Prude and pinning him to the ground in March of this year—actions that resulted in his death—has added to ongoing fury and demands for justice over police brutality and systemic racism.
 
 

"I placed a phone call for my brother to get help. Not for my brother to get lynched."
—Joe Prude, brother of Daniel Prude

Prude, a 41-year-old Black man, was experiencing a mental health crisis at the time when his brother called the police for assistance. An autopsy report, which ruled the death a homicide, determined Prude died due to asphyxiation.
 
"Daniel Prude needed mental health assistance," the New York State affiliate of the ACLU tweeted Tuesday. "Instead he was handcuffed in near-freezing temperatures and killed by Rochester police. His death was unjust, inhumane, and avoidable. We demand justice for Daniel Prude and his family."

Prude died on March 30 after being taken off life support, seven days after the police responded to his brother's call for aid.

Watch the footage (Caution: Video is graphic and may be disturbing for some viewers):

 

"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 Wednesday. "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?"

According to reporting by the Associated Press, Daniel was kicked off a train from Chicago to Rochester, New York, on the evening of March 22 "due to his unruly behavior." Rochester police officers took Prude into custody for a mental health evaluation around 7 p.m. on March 22 for suicidal thoughts—about eight hours before the encounter that led to his death. But his brother said he was only at the hospital for a few hours, the AP reported. Police responded again after Joe Prude called 911 at about 3:00 a.m. to report that his brother had left his house.

Video footage of police placing a "spit hood" over Daniel's head—a precaution due to concerns of Covid-19 spread, according to reports—and pressing his naked body to the ground was made public by Daniel's family following their own Freedom of Information Act request.

"We are hearing about Rochester police killing Daniel Prude now because his brother released the body cam footage to the media," Rebecca Kavanagh, a criminal defense and civil rights attorney, tweeted Thursday. "Imagine if he didn't have a brother? How many police killings go unreported because a person has no one to advocate for them?"

News of Prude's death came as protests continued throughout the United States in response to police killings of Black people, sparked when video footage emerged of a police officer in Minnesota kneeling on the neck of 46-year-old Black man George Floyd, who later died from his injuries, and fueled by the police shooting of 29-year-old Black man Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin last month. Blake, who police shot in the back seven times, is alive and recovering in a hospital but is paralyzed from the waist down, according to his family. At a protest decrying his shooting on last week, a white 17-year-old gunman killed two people and injured another.

Advocates continue to emphasize that systemic racism and police brutality are not new phenomena.

A group on Reddit has been documenting police brutality since protests over Floyd's death began in May and currently reports 1,070 incidents just in response to protests. Another coalition of police violence trackers found police have killed 765 people in 2020, with Black people making up 28% of that number, despite being only 13% of the population.

The New York State attorney general's office is investigating Prude's death, according to an executive order from Governor Andrew Cuomo, which requires a special prosecutor to investigate and prosecute civilian deaths caused by law enforcement.

In addition to addressing systemic racism, advocates are pointing to Daniel Prude's case as further evidence that law enforcement officers may not be best equipped to respond to mental health emergencies, arguing that social workers and other trained professionals ought to be part of the equation.

"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 the news conference with Prude's family. "These officers are trained to kill, and not to deescalate. These officers are trained to ridicule, instead of supporting Mr. Daniel Prude."

 Stanley Martin, an organizer with Free the People ROC, did not mince words.

"It's really been traumatic for the family to think that they called for help and this was the result," Martin told The Appeal. "If someone calls for mental health assistance, murdering people should not be the result."

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