CHICAGO (CBS) — The head of the union representing police officers in Rochester, New York, said Friday the disturbing video of Daniel Prude, a Black man from Chicago, suffocating after being taken into custody, does not tell the whole story about what happened that night in March.
“What you saw is not complete, and certainly not accurate, but that speaks to what needs to be done,” Rochester Police Locust Club President Michael Mazzeo said.
Mazzeo did not say what was missing from the body camera video released by the Rochester Police Department, but said there are other different videos that also should be released.
“What needs to be done is to have this investigation completed, and to have everything at that point in time shown by an agency that’s independent, and that’s investigating it, and that’s the most important thing” he said. “There are specific things that are heard in the edited version that need to be not played in that edited version, but to be shown separately in where they occurred and why they occurred.”
Prude was a Chicago resident visiting Rochester on March 23, 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 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.
Later, an officer appears to be pushing his head into the pavement.
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 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.”
Prude’s daughter, Tashyra, said she hopes her father’s death changes the way law enforcement across the country deals with mental health 911 calls.
Prude was from Chicago and his family said he was living in an apartment building in in Auburn Gresham.
The New York State Attorney General’s office is investigating Prude’s death.
His family said they want the officers involved to be fired and charged with murder.
“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?”
Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren said Thursday that she has suspended the seven officers involved in Prude’s arrest. Warren said she is making the move against the advice of counsel. The officers were on full duty until Thursday.
Mazzeo, however, cautioned against a rush to judgement of the officers involved until the state’s investigation is complete. He said from what he’s seen of the video, it appears officers followed official protocol.
“If there’s a problem with that, and there’s an issue with it, let’s change it. If there was a problem with it, and it was identified, the very next day that training should be changed. What is going to prevent the same occurrence from happening tonight, or this weekend to officers that have to follow a protocol?” he said. “If an officer does something wrong, outside of protocol, then they should be disciplined appropriately. If they follow exactly the standards and the protocols to a T … what do you say to them?”
Mazzeo said the union received an email on July 31 notifying them that body camera video was being released through a Freedom of Information Law request, but he said the email made no mention that the video in question involved an in-custody death.
“That would be something that certainly sparked our attention,” he said. “Had we known at that point in time, and that’s July 31st, that this was going to be released, we would have raised a concern, or at least asked the question, is the investigation complete? I still don’t have an answer why that was done. I’ve had two different answers given to me on why, and it makes no sense to me.”
Mazzeo also criticized the mayor’s Thursday press conference announcing seven officers were being suspended.
“I think that the mayor has a cloud over her head right now, and I think that’s distracting from her ability to do her job effectively,” he said.
One of the officers that was suspended was not even on the scene with Prude, according to Mazzeo.
“Did they not even review that? But that member now has his name out and been suspended,” he said. “I don’t think they know why he was suspended.”
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.