Rochester Mayor suspends officers involved in the fatal March arrest of Daniel Prude

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All of the Rochester police officers involved in the fatal March arrest of Daniel Prude, who died after officers placed a hood over his head and pressed his face onto the pavement until he stopped breathing, have been suspended, the city’s mayor announced Thursday.

Their immediate suspension, ordered by Mayor Lovely Warren, comes less than one day after Prude’s family released horrifying police bodycam footage of his final moments, and five months after the 41-year-old’s death.

Prude was left brain dead after his March 23 encounter with Rochester PD. He died seven days later when he was taken off life support.

The Monroe County medical examiner ruled his death a ‘homicide caused by complications of asphyxia in the setting of physical restraint’. The report also listed excited delirium and acute intoxication by phencyclidine, or PCP, as contributing factors.

Prude’s family members have called for the seven officers involved in his arrest to be charged with murder. 

All of the officers have now been suspended immediately with pay, pending the outcome of an investigation conducted by New York Attorney General Letitia James. 

‘I have never shied away from taking action and holding our police — or anyone that fails in their duties in our community — accountable,’ Mayor Warren told reporters Thursday. ‘That is why I am suspending the officers in question today, against the advice of counsel.

‘You cannot stand around and allow these types of things to happen. You have a duty,’ she continued. ‘Mr. Daniel Prude was failed by the police department, our mental health care system, our society, and he was failed by me.’

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While the fatal incident occurred on March 23 – weeks before George Floyd would die in Minnesota police custody in May, sparking nationwide protests – Prude’s death received no public attention

While the fatal incident occurred on March 23 – weeks before George Floyd would die in Minnesota police custody in May, sparking nationwide protests – Prude’s death received no public attention

Following an order issued by Mayor Lovely Warren, all seven officers involved in the arrest have been suspended. The move comes less than one day after Prude’s family released horrifying police bodycam footage of his final moments, and five months after the 41-year-old’s death.

Following an order issued by Mayor Lovely Warren, all seven officers involved in the arrest have been suspended. The move comes less than one day after Prude’s family released horrifying police bodycam footage of his final moments, and five months after the 41-year-old’s death.

Daniel Prude was left brain dead after the incident and later died on March 30 after he was taken off of life support – seven days after the encounter with police in Rochester

Prude, known to his big Chicago-based family by the nickname ‘Rell,’ was a father of five adult children and had been working at a warehouse within the last year, said his aunt Letoria Moore.

Daniel Prude was left brain dead after the incident and later died on March 30 after he was taken off of life support – seven days after the encounter with police in Rochester

Prude’s brother Joe had phoned 911 for assistance on March 23, as his sibling began suffering a mental health episode. The 41-year-old, who had been visiting Rochester from his hometown of Chicago, walked out of Joe’s house at around 3am in frigid temperatures, wearing only underwear, a tank top and socks.

WHO WERE THE OFFICERS INVOLVED? 

There were seven officers of Rochester PD present on the night Daniel Prude died in police custody.

Six of them have so far been named: 

Officer Mark Vaughn;

Officer Paul Ricotta;

Officer Andrew Specksgoor;

Officer Josiah Harris;

Officer Troy Talladay;

Sgt. Michael Magri.

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As he made his way through the neighborhood, he started removing his clothes. Police claim he also smashed windows. Several other people encountered him, with at least one calling 911 to report his erratic behavior.

Prude was then stopped by Officer Mark Vaughn from the Rochester PD. Vaughn, pointing a taser, ordered him to lay on the ground and put his hands behind his back, to which he complied. Officer Vaughn then handcuffed Prude as he lay on his stomach.

The bodycam footage shows Prude sitting in the ground in handcuffs. He is heard yelling incoherently at the officers, shouting ‘Jesus Christ’ and ‘Give me your gun, I need it’. At one point, he invites officers to ‘come and look at this big d***,’ to which the cops on scene respond with laughter.

Officers stood around Prude in a semicircle. He began spitting at them, yelling out to the cops that he had COVID-19.

Prude continued to yell at officers and at one point attempted to get to his feet. Officers were seen pushing him back over and then slamming his head into the ground.

Prude demanded they remove the spit hood, saying, ‘trying to kill me!,’ before making muffled, anguished sounds from under the hood.

For more than two minutes, officers pinned Prude down on the cold ground. Officer Vaughn used both hands to push the side of Prude’s head into the pavement, in a push-up position with his knees suspended off the ground.

Another officer used his knee at one point to hold down Prude’s torso, and a third held down his legs.

Prude is heard screaming under the weight of the officers pinning him down, however his words are muffled as his face is pushed hard into the ground. Officers are heard urging him to ‘stop spitting’.

The officers appear to become concerned when they notice water coming out of Prude’s mouth.

Officer Talladay is seen placing a kneww into Prude's back as he lay on the floor

Officer Talladay is seen placing a kneww into Prude’s back as he lay on the floor

For nearly three minutes, officers pinned Prude down on the cold ground. One officer used both hands to push the side of Prude’s head into the pavement

For nearly three minutes, officers pinned Prude down on the cold ground. One officer used both hands to push the side of Prude’s head into the pavement

Officer Vaughn used both hands to push the side of Prude’s head into the pavement, similar to a triangle push-up

Officer Vaughn used both hands to push the side of Prude’s head into the pavement, similar to a triangle push-up 

Prude is heard screaming under the weight of the officers pinning him down, however his words are muffled as his face is pushed hard into the ground. Officers are heard urging him to ‘stop spitting’

Prude is heard screaming under the weight of the officers pinning him down, however his words are muffled as his face is pushed hard into the ground. Officers are heard urging him to ‘stop spitting’

The 41-year-old then suddenly falls deathly silent and still, having lost consciousness under the restraint

The 41-year-old then suddenly falls deathly silent and still, having lost consciousness under the restraint

When EMTs arrive on scene, the officers unhandcuff Prude, roll him on his back and attempt chest compression after realizing he has no pulse

When EMTs arrive on scene, the officers unhandcuff Prude, roll him on his back and attempt chest compression after realizing he has no pulse

The 41-year-old then suddenly falls deathly silent and still, having lost consciousness under the restraint.

NY AG LETITIA JAMES IS INVESTIGATING PRUDE’S DEATH 

New York Attorney General Letitia James said on Wednesday that she would investigate Prude’s death.

‘The death of Daniel Prude was a tragedy, and I extend my deepest condolences to his family. I share the community’s concerns about ensuring a fair and independent investigation into his death and support their right to protest. 

‘Pursuant to Executive Order 147, the Special Investigations and Prosecutions Unit of my office is already actively investigating this incident. 

‘As with every investigation, we will follow the facts of this case and ensure a complete and thorough examination of all relevant parties. 

‘We will work tirelessly to provide the transparency and accountability that all our communities deserve,’ she said. 

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One officer notes that he’s been out, naked, in the street for some time. Another remarks, ‘He feels pretty cold.’

When EMTs arrive on scene, the officers unhandcuff Prude, roll him on his back and attempt chest compression after realizing he has no pulse.

The EMT tells cops not to worry since PCP causes ‘excited delirium’ and says ‘I guarantee you that’s why he coded,’ adding, ‘It’s not your fault guys.’

The medics continue performing CPR on Prude before he’s loaded into an ambulance, some 11 minutes after he first encountered police.

He was taken to the hospital and placed on life support, where he was later pronounced brain dead. He died seven days later on March 30.

While the fatal incident occurred just two months before the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, which would go on to spark national and global protests against US police brutality, Prude’s death received no public attention.

However, that changed Wednesday when his family held a news conference to reveal disturbing police body camera footage of his final moments, along with written reports they obtained through a public records request.

‘I placed a phone call for my brother to get help. Not for my brother to get lynched,’ Prude´s brother Joe said during that conference.

‘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?’  

Protesters gathered Wednesday outside Rochester’s Public Safety Building, which also serves as its police headquarters. Demonstrators remained as night fell, demanding for the officers involved to be charged with murder.

Nine people were arrested during the day, most for criminal trespass or resisting arrest, and one for also inciting a riot. One activist was taken to hospital to be treated for injuries sustained during their arrest.

Daniel Prude's brother Joe, right, stands with his son, Armin, holding a photograph up of him outside their home on Thursday

Daniel Prude’s brother Joe, right, stands with his son, Armin, holding a photograph up of him outside their home on Thursday

Activists are demanding that officers involved with Prude’s death be prosecuted on murder charges and that they be removed from the department while the investigation proceeds

Activists are demanding that officers involved with Prude’s death be prosecuted on murder charges and that they be removed from the department while the investigation proceeds

Protesters gathered Wednesday outside Rochester's Public Safety Building, which serves as police headquarters. Demonstrators remained as night fell

Protesters gathered Wednesday outside Rochester’s Public Safety Building, which serves as police headquarters. Demonstrators remained as night fell

Demonstrators are demanding for the officers involved to be charged with murder

Demonstrators are demanding for the officers involved to be charged with murder

Lakeisha Harmon, center, speaks to the crowd during a protest, Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2020, in Rochester, NY, where Daniel Prude was restrained by police officers

Lakeisha Harmon, center, speaks to the crowd during a protest, Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2020, in Rochester, NY, where Daniel Prude was restrained by police officers

Prude, known to his big Chicago-based family by the nickname ‘Rell,’ was a father of five adult children and had been working at a warehouse within the last year, said his aunt Letoria Moore.

Prude, known to his big Chicago-based family by the nickname ‘Rell,’ was a father of five adult children and had been working at a warehouse within the last year, said his aunt Letoria Moore.

Attorney Elliot Shields, who is representing Prude’s family, said they plan to ‘sue everyone who is responsible for Daniel Prude’s death’.

Prude, of Chicago, had arrived in Rochester via Amtrack train on March 22 to stay with his brother. He was kicked off the train before it got to Rochester, in Depew, ‘due to his unruly behavior,’ according to an internal affairs investigator´s report.

Rochester police officers took Prude into custody for a mental health evaluation around 7pm that day 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, according to the reports.

Police responded again after Joe Prude called 911 at about 3am to report that his brother had left his house.

The city halted its investigation into Prude’s death when state Attorney General Letitia James office began its own investigation in April. Under New York law, deaths of unarmed people in police custody are often turned over to the attorney general’s office, rather than handled by local officials.

James said Wednesday that investigation is continuing.

‘I want everyone to understand that at no point in time did we feel that this was something that we wanted not to disclose,’ Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren said at a press briefing. ‘We are precluded from getting involved in it until that agency [the AG´s office] has completed their investigation.’

An activist stops to take a picture of a make-shift memorial for Daniel erected sometime on Wednesday evening

An activist stops to take a picture of a make-shift memorial for Daniel erected sometime on Wednesday evening

The city halted its investigation into Prude's death when state Attorney General Letitia James office began its own investigation in April

The city halted its investigation into Prude’s death when state Attorney General Letitia James office began its own investigation in April

Under New York law, deaths of unarmed people in police custody are often turned over to the attorney general's office, rather than handled by local officials

Under New York law, deaths of unarmed people in police custody are often turned over to the attorney general’s office, rather than handled by local officials

A makeshift memorial is seen, Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2020, in Rochester, New York

A makeshift memorial is seen, Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2020, in Rochester, New York

During a news conference Wednesday, Shields said that the Prude family ‘will sue everyone who is responsible for Daniel Prude's death'

During a news conference Wednesday, Shields said that the Prude family ‘will sue everyone who is responsible for Daniel Prude’s death’

Warren said Thursday that Rochester Police Chief LaRon Singletary informed her on March 23 about Prude being unresponsive after the incident with police and that he may die. One week later, she said she was told by Singletary Prude had died due to ‘an apparent overdose.’ She added that August 4 is when she saw the video of Prude and the officers who detained him for the first time.

‘What I saw in that video was a man who needed help a man who need compassion, a man who needed humanity, a man who we should have respected, a man who was in crisis,’ Warren said. ‘Our response to him was wrong.’

In future, Warren said she told the police chief he is now required to provide her video of any deaths of a persons in Rochester PD custody within 24 hours for her to review.

‘At no time did I never know the extent, that there was any hands on with these officers until August 4th,’ Warren said. After that time, she said they could not disclose it because the investigation fell to the state under Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 2015 executive order requiring in-custody deaths to be investigated by the State Attorney General’s office.

Prude, known to his big Chicago-based family by the nickname ‘Rell,’ was a father of five adult children and had been working at a warehouse within the last year, said his aunt Letoria Moore.

‘He was just a bright, loving person, just family-oriented, always there for us when we needed him,’ she said, and ‘never hurt or harmed anybody.’

Prude had been traumatized by the deaths of his mother and a brother in recent years, having lost another brother before that, Moore said. In his last months, he´d been going back and forth between his Chicago home and his brother’s place in Rochester because he wanted to be close with him, she said.

She knew her nephew had some psychological issues. Still, when he called two days before his death, ‘he was the normal Rell that I knew,’ Moore said.

‘I didn’t know what was the situation, why he was going through what he was going through that night, but I know he didn’t deserve to be killed by the police,’ she said.

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