ROCHESTER, N.Y. (CBS) — Rochester, New York Mayor Lovely Warren said Thursday that she is suspending the seven officers involved in the arrest of Chicago resident Daniel Prude, who died in police custody in March.
As CBS 2 Investigator Megan Hickey reported, Warren said she is making the move against the advice of counsel. The officers were on full duty until Thursday.
“I am suspending the officers in question today against council’s advice, and I urge the attorney general to complete her investigation,” Warren said, as quoted by CBS affiliate WROC-TV in Rochester. “I understand that the union may sue the city for this, they shall feel free to do so — I have been sued before.”
Local civil rights groups gathered on the steps of City Hall in Rochester earlier Thursday to demand the immediate firing and prosecution of the officers who are involved, WROC reported. The Rochester City Council also formally requested that the officers by placed on administrative leave until an investigation by the New York state Attorney General’s office is finished, WROC reported.
Prude was a Chicago resident visiting Rochester when his brother called the police because he was having a mental health issue.
From there, the moments leading up to his eventual death were all captured on police body camera.
“The man is defenseless, butt-naked on the ground. He was cuffed up already,” Daniel Prude’s brother, Joe Prude, said Wednesday. “I mean, come on. How many more brothers need to die for society to understand that this needs to stop?”
The body cam video shows Rochester officers detaining a naked 41-year-old Daniel Prude in the early hours of March 23. Prude was ordered to lie on the ground.
Police put his hands behind his back and handcuffed him.
The video shows Prude yelling and spitting as he lies completely naked on the snow-covered ground. A white spit hood is placed on his head.
Rochester police Chief La’Ron D. Singletary would not comment on the use of the spit hood, or spit sock.
“It’s our position that the bag just added an incredibly high risk of further asphyxia, and it never needed to be done in the first place,” said attorney Nicolette Ward of Romanucci & Blandin.
Later in the video, an officer appears to be pushing Prude’s head into the pavement.
Prude was taken to the hospital, where he died days later. His death was ruled a homicide, caused by “complications of asphyxia in the setting of physical restraint.”
The Monroe County, New York Medical Examiner’s office report showed that Pride also had a small amount of PCP in his system at the time of his death, which could explain his erratic behavior.
Prude was from Chicago and his family said he was living in an apartment building in in Auburn Gresham.
Meanwhile, Prude’s daughter talked with Hickey on Thursday. She hopes her father’s death changes the way law enforcement across the country deals with mental health 911 calls.
Tashyra Prude says she could barely stomach the video of when her father was arrested.
“To this day, I’m still waiting on him to call me and say: ‘I’m coming home. I’m on my way back to see you. I’m coming to get you.’ That’s all that’s crossing my mind,” she said, “and to know that I will never get that, it’s breaking my heart.”
Tashyra Prude, a Chicago native, is one of Daniel Prude’s five kids. She is the first in her family to go to college, and she spoke to us Thursday morning from her campus in Tennessee.
“Nobody deserves to die when they are in need,” Tashyra Prude said. “Nobody deserves to die in police custody.”
Police reports obtained by the CBS2 Investigators list restraint tactics used by the officers – including what one officer described as a nerve tactic on Prude’s jaw. As seen in the video of Daniel Prude’s arrest, one officer appears to be putting all of his weight on Prude while standing in a plank position.
Several seconds pass, and Prude becomes unresponsive.
Prude’s daughter said that policies and procedures need to change.
“I want these officers charged with murder and I want the city of Rochester to do better,” Tashyra Prude said.
As per an executive order from New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo in May, state Attorney General Letitia James will investigate all cases in which law enforcement officers are involved in civilians’ deaths.
Mayor Warren said she was originally told that Prude had died of a drug overdose. She said it wasn’t until July that she learned the true cause of death.
As to why the mayor took this long to suspend the officers despite knowing about the cause of Prude’s death since July, Warren said the city or the police department had been asked to refrain from launching their own investigation.
But on Thursday, the New York Attorney General’s office said that was not the case – they encourage independent investigations.
Representatives of the Community Justice Initiative said protests would go on “non-stop” in Rochester until justice is served, and also called for the resignation of police Chief Singletary, WROC reported.