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7 officers in Rochester, New York, suspended in death of Daniel Prude

"I understand the union may sue me for taking these officers off our streets," Mayor Lovely Warren said. "They should feel free to do so."
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Seven police officers involved in the response to a call in which a Black man was put in a hood and later died have been suspended, the mayor of Rochester, New York, announced Thursday.

Mayor Lovely Warren said at a news conference that the officers involved in the response to the man, Daniel Prude, were suspended with pay "against the advice of counsel."

"Mr. Daniel Prude was failed by our police department, our mental health care system, our society, and he was failed by me," she said. "I must apologize to the Prude family and to all of our community."

Warren indicated that she might be in for a fight with the local police union over the suspensions.

"I have never shied away from taking action and holding our police, or anyone, who fails in their duties to our community accountable," she said in a statement. "I understand that the union may sue me for taking these officers off our streets. They should feel free to do so."

The officers had stopped Prude, 41, who was nude at the time, after 3 a.m. on March 23, according to edited police body camera video obtained by his family and released to the media. Officers cuffed him, placed him on the wet street face down, put a spit hood on him, pushed his head into the asphalt and placed a knee on his back, the video appears to show.

Michael Mazzeo, president of the Rochester Police Locust Club, the union representing city officers, said Friday that his members had been told for months they did nothing wrong in their response to Prude.

“The message that was conveyed from the chief’s officer at that time was that there was no concerns with the actions or our members and that they had followed correct protocols per their training," Mazzeo told reporters.

“To me, It looks like they were watching the training in front of them and following it step-by-step, what that training says to do," Mazzeo said of footage that's been made public.

He also said that one of the officers who has been suspended wasn't at the scene where Prude was handcuffed and had a spit hood put on him.

A Rochester Police Department spokeswoman on Friday declined comment on Mazzeo's assertion that the officers had been credited with following proper protocol. She said she did not immediately know if Mazzeo was correct in his belief that one of the suspended officers wasn't at the scene.

A representative for Mayor Warren could not be immediately reached for comment Friday to comment on the union chief's assertions.

The initial body camera video released earlier this week by the family spanned 11 minutes. On Thursday, a lawyer for the family shared a nearly 90-minute version of the video with NBC News. It is not clear what exactly preceded it or how it was edited.

The new video appears to show a Rochester police officer meeting with the man's brother, Joe Prude, just after he asked for help with his brother because he had left his residence.

Joe Prude has said his brother was visiting from Chicago and suffered from mental illness. He said that he called authorities the previous evening and that his brother was hospitalized briefly but started acting out when he was released from a hospital after only about three hours.

On the body camera video released Thursday, Joe Prude says he fears that his brother might hurt himself or get hit by a train on tracks near his house. Daniel Prude was taking the drug PCP, according to his brother, and had been kicked off a train earlier that day in Buffalo because he was smoking onboard.

Daniel Prude asked his brother for a cigarette before suddenly dashing out the door in just a tank top and long underwear with no coat or shoes on that cold evening, his brother tells an officer.

"He shot right out the door," Joe Prude says.

Throughout the day, Joe Prude says, his brother was paranoid and fearful that someone was going to harm him.

"'Why would I kill you?'" Joe Prude says he told his brother. "'You're my little brother. Why would I want to kill you? Why would I kill you?'"

After he was stopped by police, Daniel Prude told them that he suffered from COVID-19, prompting officers to put the hood on his head, apparently to prevent him from spitting on them.

Prude went limp and appeared to stop breathing, according to the imagery and remarks from police and paramedics at the scene. He was hospitalized on life support and died seven days later, family and authorities said.

Monroe County Medical Examiner Nadia Granger concluded that Prude died from "complications of asphyxia in the setting of physical restraint," according to an autopsy case summary provided by the family's lawyer.

She cited "acute phencyclidine intoxication," or the effects of PCP, as a contributing factor.

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Police Chief La'Ron Singletary said Wednesday that he cannot comment on the cause of death because there are ongoing investigations — an internal inquiry and one by the state attorney general.

New York Attorney General Letitia James said in a statement Wednesday, "We are working diligently to ensure a swift but thorough investigation."