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Seven police officers in Rochester, New York, have been suspended for their involvement in the arrest and subsequent death of Daniel Prude. Although Prude lost his life in March, the suspensions comes only after attorneys of Prude’s family released body camera footage showing the officers holding the Black man to the ground as he cried for help.

Early in the morning of March 23rd, Joseph Prude called police to check on his brother after he left his house in an agitated state. While Prude had been wearing a tank top, long underwear, and socks when he left, police found him around 3:15 a.m. with his clothes entirely removed. Body camera footage shows that Prude initially complied when officers asked him to lay on his stomach in order to be handcuffed. Prude yelled at the officers to give him their guns, but was otherwise well restrained by the handcuffs alone. One officer mocked Prude, asking, “You don’t got AIDS, do you? You got HIV?” before placing a “spit hood” — a mesh fabric covering meant to protect police from body fluids — over his head.

Although incongruent with body camera evidence, officers later told investigators that they used the hood because Prude had been spitting on them and that they were concerned about the coronavirus. With his head covered, one officer pushed the side of Prude’s face against the pavement while two others held down his torso and legs. According to CBS News, Prude’s head was pinned down for three minutes until he vomited “just straight water,” and fell silent. After one officer acknowledged that Prude’s chest was no longer moving, the paramedics team removed the hood from his head and attempted to perform CPR before loading him onto an ambulance. At a family press conference held Wednesday, an activist stated that the incident left Prude brain dead until he died week later. Prude’s autopsy report indicated that a low level of phencyclidine (PCP) was found in his system. However, despite this “acute phencyclidine intoxication”, Monroe County Medical Examiner Nadia Granger determined that Prude’s death was a homicide caused by “complications of asphyxia in the setting of physical restraint.”

In defense of his ill-fated 911 call, Joseph stated that, “I placed a phone call to get my brother help, not to have my brother lynched.” In a news conference on Thursday, Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren asserted that, “institutional structural racism led to Daniel prude’s Death. I won’t deny it. I stand before it and I call for justice upon it.” In fact, Prude is one of over 70 Black men that has died at the hands of police after uttering the words, “I can’t breathe.” Prude’s tragic death has led Joseph to ask, “How many more brothers have to die? This has got to stop.” Bolstering Joseph’s call for justice, New York Attorney Letitia James stated that, “The Prude family and the greater Rochester community deserve answers, and we will continue to work around the clock to provide them.”

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