7 Rochester officers have been suspended over the death of Daniel Prude, who stopped breathing after police held a ‘spit hood’ over his head for 2 minutes

  • Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren suspended seven officers involved in the death of Daniel Prude.
  • Prude died a week after police officers placed a "spit hood" over his head and pressed his face into the pavement for two minutes on March 23. 
  • His brother had called the police because Prude was having a mental health crisis and had wandered out of the house unclothed. 
  • Prude initially complied with police orders but became agitated when they place a bag over his face. 
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Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren announced Tuesday that seven officers involved in the March death of Daniel Prude would be suspended.

"I never shied away from taking action and holding our police — or anyone that fails their duties in our communities — accountable," Warren said in a press conference. "That is why I am suspending the officers in question today."

Since April, the case has been under investigation by New York state Attorney General Letita James.

"I urge the attorney general to complete her investigation. I understand that the union may sue the city for this, they shall feel free to do so — I have been sued before," Warren said. 

Local outlet WROC reported that the suspended officers are Mark Vaughn, Troy Talladay, Paul Ricotta, Francisco Santiago, Andrew Specksgoor, Josiah Harris, and Sgt. Mark Magri.

Prude, a Black man, was visiting his brother from his home in Chicago when he had a mental health crisis. His brother Joe called the police on the night of March 23 after Prude wandered outside unclothed, hoping they would get him help.

"I placed a phone call for my brother to get help. Not for my brother to get lynched," Joe Prude said at a press conference on Wednesday. "When I say 'got lynched,' that was a full-fledged on-going murder, cold-blooded."

Joe Prude, brother of Daniel Prude, right, and his son Armin, stand with a picture of Daniel Prude in Rochester, N.Y., on Thursday, Sept. 3, 2020.
AP Photo/Ted Shaffrey

A video, which attorneys for Prude's family gave to the Democrat & Chronicle, shows Prude complying as officers tell him to get on the ground, and one points a taser at him. Prude told officers he had the coronavirus. Police then placed a white bag — or a "spit hood," used to protect officers from bodily fluids — over Prude's head, and he became agitated.

One of the officers then pressed Prude's head into the pavement for two minutes. Prude was hospitalized and died a week later, after being taken off life support. 

"Mr. Daniel prude was failed by our police department, our mental health care system, our society and, he was failed by me," Warren said. "Daniel Prude's death has proven yet again that many of the challenges that we faced in the past are the same challenges that we face today."

An autopsy report concluded Prude was asphyxiated

Monroe County Medical Examiner Dr. Nadia Granger ruled Prude's death a homicide, writing in an autopsy report it was caused by "complications of asphyxia" while physically restrained.

The Associated Press reported that acute intoxication by phencyclidine, or PCP, was also noted on the medical examiner's report. 

During the press conference, Warren said Police Chief La'Ron Singletary told her that Prude died of "an apparent overdose while in custody."

"I only learned of those officers' actions on August 4 when cooperation council Tim Curtin reviewed the video for the FOIL request by Prude's family," Warren said. "At no time before August 4 did Singletary or anyone make me aware of the officers' actions in regard to Mr. Prude's death."

A makeshift memorial is seen, Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2020, in Rochester, N.Y., near the site where Daniel Prude was restrained by police officers.
AP Photo/Adrian Kraus

Following the publication of the video Wednesday, Prude's family and local activists demanded that the officers involved be fired and charged in his homicide.

"The Rochester Police Department has shown time and again that they are not trained to deal with mental health crises," Ashley Gantt, a community organizer for Free the People Roc and the New York Civil Liberties Union, told the Democrat and Chronicle. "These officers are trained to kill and not to de-escalate. Daniel's case is the epitome of what is wrong with this system and today we stand firmly seeking justice for Daniel and his family, and for all the victims who have been murdered and terrorized by the Rochester Police Department."

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