Police officers involved in the suffocation of Daniel Prude – who died in March after a bag was placed over his head – were following their training, their union chief has said, as it emerged that Prude’s brother Joe said he was hallucinating and suicidal before he died.
Prude, 41, from Chicago, was naked running through the streets of Rochester, New York – where his brother lives – in the early hours of March 23 when he was arrested.
He had taken the drug phencyclidine, known as PCP or angel dust, and was ranting at the officers, telling them he had coronavirus, saying they should just put him on a plane, and asking for their guns.
Daniel Prude, 41, from Chicago, died in Rochester following a March 23 arrest by police
Prude was naked and in handcuffs when the ‘spit hood’ was put over his head
Paramedics arrived as Prude was wrestled to the floor, still wearing the ‘spit hood’
He was handcuffed and sitting on the road when one officer approach him from behind and put a ‘spit hood’ on him, because he was spitting.
Prude, who was black, then becomes increasingly agitated and is held face-first to the ground, with an officer’s knee to his back. After the paramedics arrive, he falls unconscious, and he died in hospital seven days later.
The seven officers involved have been suspended.
Michael Mazzeo, president of the Locust Club police union, said the seven officers appeared to be following guidelines.
‘To me, it looks like they were watching the training in front of them and doing step by step what the training says to do,’ he said on Friday.
‘If there’s a problem with that, let’s change it.’
Mazzeo said the officers were aware that they were dealing with someone who appeared to have had some sort of mental breakdown, and were doing the best they could in difficult circumstances.
The union chief said officers ‘absolutely’ need more help in dealing with people who are mentally ill, or on drugs.
‘It wasn’t that long ago when New York state mental health facilities were closed and people were put out on the street, and who was the only other agency who was able to deal with them? The police,’ he said.
‘We definitely need changes and help.’
Joe Prude told officers, in footage captured on body cameras, that his brother had arrived in Rochester from Chicago – where he lived with his sister – on March 22.
Daniel Prude, right, is pictured with his brother Joe, who lived in Rochester with his wife
Daniel (right) is pictured with his brother Joe Prude, with Joe’s wife Valerie
Prude had been kicked off a train for smoking, and was collected from a shelter in Buffalo at around noon on March 22.
Shortly after arriving at the home of Joe and his wife, Daniel started to become paranoid, claiming that the couple wanted to kill him.
Joe’s wife Valerie described Daniel jumping under furniture and putting couches on top of himself, and then throwing himself head-first down 21 steps into the basement.
‘We don’t know what to do with him because of that stuff he was on,’ she told the officer.
The couple called police, and Daniel was taken to Strong Memorial Hospital in the city.
He was there for ‘only a few hours,’ before a medical taxi dropped him off back at Joe’s home.
Joe told the officer Daniel was ‘calm’ after returning from the hospital and did not make any more suicidal statements.
But when Daniel asked for a cigarette, and Joe went to get him one, Daniel ran out the back door in the cold, rainy night – barefooted and wearing only a white tank top and black long johns.
Police find him at 3:16am on March 23.
Demonstrators in Rochester marched on Thursday night in anger at Prude’s death
Police and protesters square off in Rochester on Thursday night, after the video was aired
A woman records a live video during Thursday night’s protest in Rochester
After Daniel is taken to the hospital following his interaction with police, an officer returns to Joe’s home around 4am, saying ‘the bosses’ want an officer to stay with them ‘until they figure some more stuff out.’
Footage from the moment of Prude’s arrest was released by the family on Wednesday – five months after his death, and only as a result of the family filing an open-records request.
Lovely Warren, mayor of Rochester, has been accused of leading a cover-up, and violent protests erupted in the city on Thursday, with protesters driven back by police firing chemical sprays.
Demonstrators also took to the streets in New York City, where a car drove straight into the crowd in Times Square. No one was seriously injured, and police are searching for the driver.
Warren suggested that she had been misled by the police chief, La’Ron D. Singletary.
‘Experiencing and ultimately dying from the drug overdose in police custody, as I was told by the chief, is entirely different than what I ultimately witnessed, on the video,’ the mayor said.
Protesters in Rochester staged a sit-in on Thursday night, calling for justice for Prude
Police officers used chemical irritants to drive protesters away in the early hours of Friday
A protester falls to the ground amid a volley of chemicals fired by Rochester police
A medical examiner concluded 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.
Chief Singletary denied that there had been any intention to keep the circumstances surrounding Prude’s death secret, said that he had ordered criminal and internal investigations hours after the encounter.
‘This is not a cover-up,’ he said.
‘Our job is to try to get some sort of medical intervention, and that’s exactly what happened that night.’