What We Know About Daniel Prude’s Death

Daniel was killed when police pinned him to the ground in March while he was handcuffed and wearing a “spit hood.”

Nicole Rojas
Sep 3, 2020 - 12:10

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Update 5:10 p.m.: Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren suspended seven officers involved in Daniel Prude’s death.

The family of a Black man who died of asphyxiation while police pinned him to the ground demanded justice during a press conference on September 2. The fatal incident, which occurred two months before George Floyd died under similar circumstances, was caught on body-camera footage. 

Daniel Prude, 41, died in March after a Rochester, New York, police officer placed his hands on his head and another dug his knee into his back. Police covered Daniel’s head with a “spit hood” and handcuffed him during the incident. 

Joe Prude, Daniel’s brother, told reporters that he called Rochester Police for help looking for his brother, who was mentally ill, The Washington Post reported. Instead, officers killed Daniel, he said. 

“I placed a phone call for my brother to get help. Not for my brother to get lynched,” Joe said at a news conference. 

Timeline of Events

On March 22, Daniel took a train from Chicago to Rochester to visit his brother. Train officials kicked Daniel off the train in Depew, New York, an hour southwest of Rochester, according to The Associated Press. At around 7 p.m. that night, authorities took Daniel to a hospital for a medical evaluation after he allegedly expressed suicidal thoughts. He remained in the hospital for some hours. 

In the early hours of March 23, Joe called Rochester Police to report that his brother was missing. Distressing video of the incident shows the moment officers found Daniel walking around naked. 

An officer orders Daniel to get on the ground and place his hands behind his back, body-cam video shows. Daniel immediately complies with the officers.

“Chill out, man, don’t move,” the officer told Daniel. He replied, “Yes, sir.” 

Less than a minute later, Daniel becomes agitated and demands police give him a gun. The next body-cam clip shows Daniel sitting and yelling at officers to give him mace. Officers then place a spit-hood on him. Spit-hoods have come under fire in the U.S. and the U.K. after several in-custody deaths. 

Daniel continues to demand officers give him a gun, while begging to have the hood removed. Officers can be seen pushing Daniel down to the floor, with one officer holding his head and another using his knee to pin him down. 

“You’re trying to kill me!” Daniel whimpers. He then mumbles some inaudible words. 

Another clip shows a white officer putting all his weight on Daniel’s head. Paramedics arrive and less than two minutes later, someone is heard saying, “It looks like he doesn’t even have chest compressions.” 

According to The Democrat and Chronicle, which first reported on the footage, a medic performed CPR on Daniel after officers removed the hood and handcuffs. An unresponsive Daniel was taken to the hospital, where he died days later. 

Monroe County Medical Examiner Dr. Nadio Granger ruled Daniel died of a homicide caused by “complications of asphyxia in the setting of physical restraint,” the autopsy report cited by The Democrat and Chronicle said. 

Demand for Justice

In a press conference on September 2, Daniel’s family released body-camera footage of his murder and demanded the officers involved be held accountable. NPR reported that the family plans to file a wrongful death lawsuit, claiming that officers’ actions led to Daniel’s death. 

“They treated my brother like a piece of garbage,” Joe told reporters. 

Officers’ conduct during the fatal incident has been under investigation by the New York State Attorney General’s office since mid-April. The office has yet to file charges. 

Attorney General Letitia James called Daniel’s death “a tragedy,” in a statement released on September 2. “We will follow the facts of this case and ensure a complete and thorough examination of all relevant parties,” James said. 

“Daniel Prude’s murder at the hands of the Rochester Police Department is horrifying and unacceptable,” Idan Abid, the Genesee Valley Region Chapter Director for the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU), said in a statement. “It has been over four months since the attorney general’s office opened their investigation, but it does not take that long to see that the officers involved abused their authority to end Mr. Prude’s life.” 

Abid said the officers involved should not be allowed to patrol while the incident is investigated and that the public deserves to know the misconduct history of the officers involved. 

Video of Daniel’s killing prompted protests in the city, with protesters and community leaders accusing the city’s police and mayor of trying to cover up the death. Police responded to the protest by pepper spraying and firing tear gas on demonstrators. 

This article has been updated with the latest information coming from Rochester, New York.

About the Author

Nicole Rojas is a senior writer for The North Star. She has published in various publications, including Newsweek, GlobalPost, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored Europe, Asia, Australia and the Americas.

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