NEW YORK: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on Thursday called for “expeditious” answers from an investigation into the death of Daniel Prude, a Black man, after Rochester police put a hood over his head and asphyxiated him while arresting him in March.
Prude’s family released on Wednesday body camera footage from his arrest in March, showing a group of officers in the upstate New York City putting a hood over his head as he knelt on the ground, handcuffed and naked, apparently to prevent his spit from possibly transmitting the novel coronavirus.
“For the sake of Mr. Prude’s family and the greater Rochester community, I am calling for this case to be concluded as expeditiously as possible. For that to occur, we need the full and timely cooperation of the Rochester Police Department and I trust it will fully comply,” Cuomo said.
Prude’s family has called for the arrest of the officers involved in his death, which came seven days after the incident. Prude was 41.
The Monroe County medical examiner ruled Prude’s death a homicide caused by “complications of asphyxia in the setting of physical restraint,” according to an autopsy report, the New York Times reported.
Prude’s asphyxiation occurred two months before the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police, which spurred international protests against police brutality and racial injustice in the United States.
The office of New York Attorney General Letitia James is investigating, as state law requires whenever police are involved in a civilian’s death.
“The Prude family and the greater Rochester community deserve answers, and we will continue to work around the clock to provide them,” James said in a statement.
Prude’s family obtained video of the arrest after filing a freedom of information act request, CBS-affiliate WROC-TV reported.
In the video, an officer placed a “spit hood” over Prude’s head. Prude could be heard shouting, “Take this…off my face!” and “You’re trying to kill me!” before his shouts turned to cries and became muffled. Officers were heard saying “Calm down” and “stop spitting.”
Later, the video showed an officer kneeling on Prude’s back while Prude was silent and snow fell around them. Someone was heard saying, “start CPR.” Minutes later, the video showed Prude being loaded into an ambulance on a stretcher.
Rochester police chief La’Ron Singletary told reporters on Wednesday that internal and criminal investigations were underway.
“I know that there’s a rhetoric that is out there that this is a cover-up. This is not a cover-up,” Singletary said.
Rochester police declined further comment on Thursday, and a lawyer for Prude’s family did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Activists were planning protests in Rochester and New York City’s Times Square on Thursday calling for the officers to be charged for Prude’s death.
After the video’s release on Wednesday, protests broke out in downtown Rochester, a city near Lake Ontario about 300 miles (480 km) north of New York City. Police released pepper spray on the demonstrators and arrested nine people, the Democrat and Chronicle reported.
On Wednesday, Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren called the video “very disturbing.”
“We’re going to do everything we can to hold someone accountable,” Warren told reporters.
Prude’s family told reporters that Prude had been struggling with mental health. His brother, Joe Prude, said he had called police because he was worried when his brother left home that night.
Prude’s autopsy report said “excited delirium” and acute intoxication by phencyclidine, or the drug PCP, were also contributing factors to his death, the New York Times reported.
“I placed a phone call for my brother to get help, not for my brother to get lynched,” Joe Prude said.
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