His Brother Called For Help After He Was Acting Strangely. Police Knelt On Him Until He Was Brain Dead.
Body camera video shows that Daniel Prude was complying with police when they knelt on his back and pushed his face to the ground for so long that he stopped breathing.
Meg O'Connor Sep 02, 2020
Joe Prude called the police for help. His brother was acting strangely and had suddenly bolted out the back door.
But when Rochester police found Daniel Prude soon after, naked and walking in the street, they handcuffed him, mocked him, put a mesh bag over his head, knelt on his back, and pushed his face into the ground until he stopped breathing, police records and body camera video shared with The Appeal show. Prude, who is Black, was unarmed.
“That was a lynching,” Joe Prude told The Appeal. “That was cold-blooded murder. … My brother was a loving individual. He was a likeable guy and a damn good brother. He made people laugh. He brought joy to people. He didn’t deserve what happened to him.”
A week after the March incident that left him brain dead, Daniel Prude was pronounced dead, a lawyer representing his family said. Months later, Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin would kneel on George Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, sparking nationwide protests over racism and police violence.
The video of Prude’s death, obtained by local racial justice group Free the People Roc, was made public for the first time Wednesday. It eerily echoes Floyd’s death—the officers ignore Prude’s cries for help and continue to kneel on him as he appears to stop breathing. Local advocates are asking how what police called a “mental hygiene arrest” turned deadly.
“It’s really been traumatic for the family to think that they called for help and this was the result,” said Stanley Martin, an organizer with Free the People Roc. “If someone calls for mental health assistance, murdering people should not be the result.”
The medical examiner determined Prude’s death was a homicide, caused by “complications of asphyxia in the setting of physical restraint,” a report from the Monroe County Medical Examiner shows. The medical examiner’s report attributes those complications to “excited delirium“—a controversial diagnosis often cited by law enforcement that isn’t recognized by major medical professional organizations—due to acute phencyclidine (PCP) intoxication.
The police department did not respond to an email and a voicemail seeking comment.
At a press conference held Wednesday morning, Free the People Roc and Daniel Prude’s family demanded the officers responsible for Prude’s death be fired.
Later that day, Rochester Police Chief La’Ron Singletary told reporters that the officers involved had not been suspended. “We don’t have a problem holding anyone accountable, but the investigation has to take its course,” he said.
The New York State attorney general’s office is investigating Prude’s death, according to an executive order from Governor Andrew Cuomo, and will decide whether or not to prosecute the officers involved.
On March 22, Prude, 41, got an Amtrak train from Chicago to Rochester to visit his brother. He was behaving unusually when he arrived and had threatened to harm himself, Joe Prude told The Appeal, so he contacted the police and had his brother taken to the hospital. But he was released within hours, Joe Prude said. Later, in the early morning hours of March 23, Daniel Prude asked his brother for a cigarette, then suddenly ran out the back door.
So Joe Prude called the police again. An officer arrived, and Joe Prude told him his brother was only a danger to himself, and told police not to kill his brother.
Body camera footage from the responding officers shared with The Appeal shows police found Prude at around 3 a.m., walking naked and bleeding down Jefferson Street. Rochester police officer Mark Vaughn pulls out his taser and tells Prude to get on the ground and put his hands behind his back. Prude immediately complies and is handcuffed without incident. After touching Prude, Vaughn returns to his squad car and uses hand sanitizer on his gloved hands.
“That was easy and fast,” Vaughn says as he walks back to Prude. At least five Rochester police officers stand over Prude, who is lying on his stomach on the cold, wet ground with his hands bound behind his back, rambling and saying the same phrases over and over. Snow is falling on him.
Prude appears to spit several times while on the ground, but not at the officers. One of the officers asks if anyone has a spit sock.
“Sir, you don’t got AIDS do you?” Vaughn asks Prude, who is writhing on the ground and repeating himself.
Another officer again asks for a spit sock, and though Prude is handcuffed on the ground and all of the officers are standing a few feet away from him, Vaughn pulls one out of his pocket and puts it over Prude’s head.
“He complied with all of their demands, and then they treated him like a piece of garbage with not even one speck of basic humanity,” Elliot Dolby-Shields, an attorney representing Prude’s family, told The Appeal. “No, ‘Hey are you alright? Hey, can we get you a blanket?’ … It’s freezing out and he’s naked. They don’t offer him anything.”