Daniel Prude was treated like an animal and murdered by officers who should have protected him, said four relatives of the Black man who died after he was pinned to the ground by police in Rochester, New York.
Prude was “not the animal that they’ve treated him like,” his daughter, Tashyra Prude, told CNN on Thursday. “That is a human being. That is my father. That is somebody’s brother, son, cousin, nephew. This was one of the most loving people I have ever known in my life.”
Seven officers have been suspended in the case, the latest episode in a heated national reckoning over how police treat Black people.
Daniel Prude, 41, had been in the midst of a mental health episode on March 23 when his brother called the Rochester Police Department for help, his family said. Police bodycam video released by the family shows officers covering Prude’s head with a “spit sock” and holding him on the ground in a prone position before he stopped breathing. He was found to be brain dead at a hospital and died a week later, relatives have said.
Watching that video, Tashyra Prude “was immediately filled with rage,” she told CNN.
“But I was also saddened because I had never thought that I will see my father in a situation like that, especially something that was out of my control and I had no way to be there to comfort him or help him through that kind of situation,” she said. “It put a serious burden on me, and I feel like that is something I would be stuck with for the rest of my life.”
Another of Prude’s children was “traumatized” by the video, she told CNN on Friday morning.
“I couldn’t believe that I saw this. My father, like, that’s how he died. … I had to cut it off, I couldn’t watch it,” said Junera Prude, 25, of Chicago. “It made it completely worse… It’s like we kinda knew what happen, but we didn’t know, so to actually see it and hear him crying out and saying he needed help … I couldn’t do it.”
The officers involved should be fired and charged with murder, Tashyra Prude said.
“There is video footage of these people suffocating my father. My father was murdered by these police officers,” she said. “There is no reason why they should be on a paid suspension. They should be arrested, and they should be tried as the killers that they are.”
Added Junera Prude: “I just want to make sure that the officers that did this go to jail or something.”
The video shows “cold-blooded murder,” Daniel Prude’s brother, Joe Prude, told CNN.
Daniel Prude had been “in the plain of hell,” crying and unclothed when police arrived, and officers didn’t even appear to try to keep him warm or calm him, his older sibling said.
“It’s 32 degrees outside, rain and snow mixed together. You mean to tell me y’all don’t keep things in the back of your squad car in the trunk to cover that individual up?” Joe Prude said. “But they didn’t do none of that. What they did was mock him, tease him and basically led him on to be more agitated in his state of being where he was. Who does that? Nobody but people with intentions only to harm somebody.”
Daniel Prude had made suicidal statements and had thrown himself head-first down 21 stairs, his brother said in the police bodycam videos released to CNN by a family attorney.
People shouldn’t have to worry about calling police dispatch if a family member needs medical attention or assistance, Joe Prude told CNN on Thursday.
“I did not know by me placing that call it was going to put my brother in harm’s way, and if I’d have knew that was going to happen, man, I’d have tied my brother up just like I told everybody before, and I’d have kept him there till he calmed down on his own.”
Daniel Prude – three years Joe’s junior – had been a wonderful man, loved by all and would have helped anyone, the elder sibling said.
“It’s bringing tears in my eyes right now,” he said. “A part of my family tree is gone, and I can’t replace that.”
Daniel Prude had called his father from Rochester not long before the police encounter to say he had arrived there safely from Chicago, the elder man, Joe Lewis Cole, told CNN.
“He said, ‘Yeah, Pops, I made it.’ I said, ‘OK, that’s good.’ Then, for his brother, for Joe, to call me and tell me that his brother ran out in the street, you know, naked and everything. So again, we tell his brother, Joe, to call the police to get him some help, right then and there.”
Cole believed the police were there to help, he said, but “they didn’t do none of that.”
Cole wouldn’t treat his dog the way his son had been treated, the father said. “They treated him like he was an animal, a caged animal, a dog. To try to express yourself on that there is very hard. I’m trying to hold my emotions.”
A part of Cole was lost with his son’s death, he said.
“I’ll never see Daniel’s face again. … That was my birthday present. Daniel was born on my birthday, and I miss him dearly. For him to leave like that there for no reason, just because he needed help, that was uncalled for.”
Prude’s death was ruled a homicide by the Monroe County Medical examiner, according to a copy of the autopsy report obtained by lawyers for his family. The report cites complications of asphyxia in the setting of physical restraint, and it cites excited delirium and acute PCP intoxication as causes of death.
‘Institutional and structural racism’
Seven officers involved in Prude’s death have been suspended with pay, Rochester’s mayor announced Thursday. The Rochester Police Locust Club, the union representing the city officers, did not immediately respond to CNN’s request for comment about the suspensions.
Mayor Lovely Warren said she had been misled by the city’s police chief, who’d led her to believe Prude died in police custody of an overdose. Warren saw the body camera footage for the first time nearly a month ago, she said.
Prude would have been treated differently if he’d been White, the mayor said.
“Institutional and structural racism led to Daniel Prude’s death. I won’t deny it. I stand before it, and I call for justice upon it,” Warren said Thursday.
Institutional racism caused her dad’s death, Junera Prude said she believes.
“Why did they do him like that? It was no reason,” she said. “He was complying with them. When they told him to get on his back, he did that. When they told him to put his hands behind his back, he did that. When they put the handcuffs on him, he was still compliant with them.”
New York Attorney General Letitia James started an investigation of the case on April 16.
“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 Thursday.
But Junera Prude wants to know, “Why has this taken so long?” her attorney, Frank Ciardi said Friday.
“This is five months,” he told CNN. “We’ve seen videos come out within days of an incident (like this one), and to have the AG sit on this for five months, to have my client not even know what’s going for the last five months. You know, I think Mayor Warren came out and said the right things yesterday, but I hope actions now follow through.”
CNN’s Erin Burnett, Polo Sandoval, Lauren del Valle and Rob Frehse contributed to this report.