Rochester, N.Y., mayor suspends 7 officers involved in asphyxiation death

(UPI) - The mayor of Rochester, N.Y., on Thursday suspended seven police officers involved in the arrest of a Black man that resulted in his death after they covered his head and held him to the ground in March.

Rochester, N.Y., mayor suspends 7 officers involved in asphyxiation death

Mayor Lovely Warren announced the move one day after the Rochester Police Department released footage from the arrest, prompting protests. She also criticized police Chief La'Ron Singeltary for his handling of the case.

"The only way we can confront systemic racism in our city is to face it head-on," she said in a news conference. "There can not be a justice system for White people and a justice system for Black people."

Warren said the suspensions come against the city council's advice.

"Mr. Daniel Prude was failed by our police department, our mental healthcare system, our society and he was failed by me," she said. "Daniel Prude's death has proven yet again that many of the challenges that we faced in the past are the same challenges that we face today.

Protesters and officers clashed outside a law enforcement building Wednesday in response to the video's release.

The Rochester Police Department used mace and pepper pellets on the protesters as they attempted to tear down barricades outside the Rochester Public Safety Building. Police arrested nine people Wednesday.

The protests came after the RPD released body-worn camera footage of officers restraining Daniel Prude, 41, causing him to stop breathing and later die. Advocates said police should be better trained to handle what the man's family described as a mental health episode and supporters connected his death to other police-involved killings of Black men.

"We are in need of accountability for the wrongful death and murder of Daniel Prude. He was treated inhumanely and without dignity," said Ashley Gantt, a member of Free the People Roc and New York Civil Liberties Union.

"The Rochester Police Department has shown time and again that they are not trained to deal with mental health crises. These officers are trained to kill and not to de-escalate," she added, according to the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle.

Daniel Prude's arrest came March 23 after his brother, Joe Prude, call police to alert them about the mental health crisis.

Officers discovered Daniel Prude walking down the street without any clothes on. They alleged he broke windows at a business on the same street.

Witnesses described his actions as erratic before officers' arrival.

Video footage shows Daniel Prude complied with officers when they told him to lie on the ground and put his hands behind his back to be handcuffed.

After that, though, he appears to become agitated and attempts to stand up, particularly after they put what's known as a "spit sock" on his head. Police said they used the covering because he repeatedly spat at them and told them he had coronavirus.

Officers then restrained him by leaning on his head, back and feet as he was face-down on street.

One officer can be seen in the video leaning on Daniel Prude's head for more than 2 minutes, during which time the latter stopped moving and speaking.

He was hospitalized after he stopped breathing and died one week later of complications from "asphyxia in the setting of physical restraint," according to an autopsy report.

The Monroe County Medical examiner ruled the death a homicide and said Daniel Prude's "excited delirium" and ingestion of low levels of PCP played a factor.

The video footage of Daniel Prude's arrest and subsequent death were reminiscent of that of George Floyd, who died May 25 in Minneapolis after a former police officer kneeled on his neck for more than 8 minutes. His death sparked protests across the globe against police brutality and racial bias.

The Prude family is calling for three officers involved in his arrest to be fired and arrested.

Joe Prude described his brother's death as "cold-blooded murder" during a family news conference Wednesday.

"How many more brothers got to die for society to understand that this needs to stop," he said. "And I can't even share with y'all the pain that I'm feeling, and my family is going through as well."

Meanwhile, in San Leandro, Calif., a police officer was charged with voluntary manslaughter for shooting to death Steven Demarco Taylor on April.

Taylor, a Black man, was allegedly trying to leave a Walmart without paying for a baseball bat he carried when officers used Tasers on him. When that didn't stop him, officer Jason Fletcher shot him in the chest, causing him to drop the bat.

Police said Taylor was advancing on them at the time, but Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O'Malley said "it was not reasonable to conclude Mr. Taylor posed an imminent threat of death or great bodily injury to officer Fletcher or to anyone else in the store."