A naked Black man, restrained with handcuffs and his head covered with a “spit hood,” was forced into the asphalt by Rochester police before going limp and dying days later, his family said Wednesday.
Relatives of Daniel Prude, 41, released police video and claimed that it shows officers used excessive force to control him.
Prude had told police he suffered from COVID-19, prompting officers to put a hood on his head, apparently to prevent him from spitting on them. He was visiting from Chicago and suffered from mental illness, his brother, Joe Prude, told reporters.
The incident on March 23 — more than two months before George Floyd died during similar police action in Minneapolis — came to light Wednesday after part of the body camera video, obtained from police on behalf of family members, was released by their lawyer to NBC affiliate WHEC of Rochester.
NBC News does not know what happened before or after what's shown in the partial video nor whether or how it may have been edited.
"He's defenseless," Joe Prude said. "He's got on no damn clothes. ... They're treating my brother like a damn animal. You sit there teasing him, laughing and making practical jokes."
The circumstances of Daniel Prude’s death sparked protests in the western New York city on Wednesday night and community activists vowed to keep pressing for action against the officers involved.
“We have serious issues which need to be addressed,” the Rev. Lewis W. Stewart, president of the United Christian Leadership Ministry of Western New York, told supporters on Thursday.
“But our first issue is dealing with RPD and getting those cops fired and prosecuted.”
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Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren and Police Chief La'Ron Singletary expressed empathy for the Prude family but said there wasn't much they could do because New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued an order July 15 giving the state attorney general jurisdiction over the investigation.
"It's not within our control," Warren said at a separate news conference Wednesday.
Singletary said he has to wait for the state to complete its investigation before he can determine if any officers involved should be disciplined.
"The officers have not been suspended as of yet," he said.
A spokesman for the Rochester Police Department declined further comment on the matter Thursday. A representative of the local police union, the Rochester Police Locust Club, did not immediately respond to telephone and email requests for comment Wednesday and Thursday.
Attorney General Letitia James said in a statement Wednesday, "My office is already activating this incident."
Daniel Prude was released from a hospital, where he had undergone a mental health check, the day before Joe Prude called 911 for help with his brother's behavior on March 23, Joe Prude said.
At 3:16 a.m., according to a timestamp on the video, officers arrived wearing winter gear as what appeared to be rain fell on a wet roadway where Daniel Prude stood nude. He immediately complied with orders to lie on the ground face down and put his hands behind his back, it shows.
He spoke gibberish, told officers to take note of his genitals and asked for a gun. The outbursts inspired casual chuckling from the officers.
Daniel Prude, handcuffed and sitting up, spit onto the ground, the video shows.
An officer approached from behind him and placed a spit hood on his head, the video shows. After Daniel Prude said repeatedly, "Give me the gun," officers pushed him back down face down on the ground and pushed his head into the asphalt, with one officer's knee on his back, the video shows.
Daniel Prude started whimpering unintelligibly, it shows.
Police joked with arriving paramedics, and one officer said: "It's crazy. He's been out naked for 30 minutes."
An officer warned, "He says he has corona."
At least one of the officers said that Daniel Prude was "puking, just straight water," into the hood but that the hood remained on him as he continued to lie face down.
"My man," the officer said, "you puking?"
Laughter is heard.
"It looks like he started throwing up. Now he doesn't even have chest compressions," an officer said.
Daniel Prude didn't respond and appeared limp, according to the video. An officer called for a paramedic.
"We need you," he said to the woman.
"Does he have a pulse?" she asked.
"No," a man answered.
"Start CPR," the paramedic said.
Paramedics went into action, administering CPR, the video shows. At that point, an officer said, "I'm going to get some more hand sanitizer."
A paramedic asked the officers whether the man was on drugs or was experiencing "excited delirium," a controversial term that generally describes suspects who are on drugs and out of control.
"It's not your guys' fault," she said.
Daniel Prude died March 30 after being on life support.
The organization Free the People Roc, whose members appeared with Joe Prude at Wednesday's news conference, also posted the video on its Facebook page.
"I placed a phone call for my brother to get help, not for my brother to get lynched," Joe Prude said at the news conference.
The local chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, like Prude's family, isn't happy with the pace of the inquiry.
"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," Iman Abid, director of the Genesee Valley region chapter, said in a statement.
"The officers involved in this incident should not be allowed on patrol while the investigation proceeds," she added, "and the public has a right to know the misconduct history of the officers involved."