The mayor of Rochester, in the U.S. state of New York, has suspended seven police officers in connection with the suffocation death of an African American man apprehended in March.
Mayor Lovely Warren suspended the officers Thursday. The victim, Daniel Prude, can be seen in video taken by an officer’s body camera completely naked as he sat on the ground in a light snow with his hands cuffed behind him.
Warren said the police had misled her for months about the circumstances surrounding Prude’s death. She said Police Chief La’Ron Singletary had led her to believe that Prude’s death was the result of a drug overdose. The mayor said the video was “entirely different” from the chief’s depiction.
Singletary has denied a cover-up.
The video was released Wednesday because the Prude family had submitted a public records request.
The U.S. has been roiled by protests because of a series of deaths of African American men and women in police custody.
Prude had been having mental health issues. He lived in Chicago but was visiting his brother in Rochester. His brother, Joe, had him admitted to a hospital for an evaluation hours before the police encounter. After his release from the hospital, he went back to his brother’s house where he once again began displaying erratic behavior and left.
The few clothes he had on when he left the house were gone by the time the police encountered him, after receiving calls from his brother and other people.
The police say once they restrained Prude, he began to spit, and so they placed a spit sock over his head, a hood that covered his head and prevented Prude from spitting on the police.
Prude immediately asked for the hood to be removed and asked for a gun. When he tried to get off the ground, police were seen in the video rushing to him and pushing his face into the ground. Eventually, his pleas to remove the hood stopped. When police asked him a question, there was no reply. He died seven days later when he was taken off life support.
Mayor Warren said Prude “was failed by the police department, our mental health care system, our society, and he was failed by me.”
The medical examiner ruled Prude’s death a homicide caused by “complications of asphyxia in the setting of physical restraint.”
New York Attorney General Letitia James is investigating the case.