The Rochester cops involved in the suffocation death of Daniel Prude were following their training when they put a “spit hood” over the man’s head and pinned him to the ground, the head of the officers’ union said Friday — as Prude’s brother claimed he was acting suicidal before the fatal encounter.
“I think when this investigation is over and you compare it to just what the training went through, to me, it looks like they were watching the training in front of them and doing it step by step by what that training says to do,” Locust Club President Mike Mazzeo said during a press briefing, WROC-TV reported.
“So if there is a problem with that, if there’s an issue with that, let’s change it,” he added.
Mazzeo — who during the press conference displayed a so-called “spit hood” meant to be placed over a person’s head to prevent them from spitting — said the officers did not intend to cause Prude harm.
“It’s used in a case, in a situation where an individual is spitting,” Mazzeo said. “During the course of this — it’s been out there enough that he made reference to having COVID — he was also spitting. There’s a number of other issues with airborne pathogens that officers encountered that are very dangerous. That’s the purpose and the protocol in place.”
In police body-cam footage of the March 23 incident released this week, Prude, a 41-year-old black man who lived in Chicago, was seen naked and in distress when he was confronted by cops in the middle of a street in Rochester, New York.
The officers — heard laughing at times throughout the video — handcuffed Prude and put the spit mask over his head, with one cop holding his head down until he stopped moving, the footage shows. Prude was declared brain-dead and died one week later.
Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren suspended seven Rochester police officers involved Thursday, pending an investigation into their roles the death of Prude.
The cops suspended with pay were identified as Officers Mark Vaughn, Troy Taladay, Paul Ricotta, Francisco Santiago, Andrew Specksgoor, Josiah Harris, and Sgt. Michael Magri, according to WROC-TV.
“Let’s be honest here — yesterday they suspended seven members,” Mazzeo said. “The mayor says she’s disappointed in the [police] chief, but he’s going to do better. These seven members are suspended. In fact, one of the members was never on scene with Mr. Prude. Did they not even review that?”
Mazzeo said the union had been told by Rochester Police Chief La’Ron Singletary’s office that there were “no concerns of the actions” of the officers.
“The message that was conveyed to us by the chief’s office at that time was that there was no concern of the actions of our members and that they had followed correct protocols per their training,” Mazzeo said. “Since it’s a criminal investigation the union representative did not accompany our members in that interview.”
During her own press briefing Thursday, Warren denounced how the officers responded to Prude — with Mazzeo calling her comments “careless and reckless.”
Mazzeo said he acknowledged that police have to be better but explained that other agencies and resources must be better, too.
“I will say that we have to do things better, but that also includes on the hospital side, on the EMTs side on the responses to that as well,” Mazzeo said, adding, “I absolutely believe that we need more help.”
Mazzeo continued, “It wasn’t that long ago when New York state mental health facilities were closed and people were put out on the street and who was the only other agency who was able to deal with them? The police. We definitely need changes and help.”
Meanwhile, Prude’s brother told CNN in a report published Friday that his sibling was acting erratic and suicidal and even threw himself down a flight of stairs in the hours before the fatal police encounter.
Joe Prude is seen in police body camera footage telling a cop about Daniel’s erratic behavior after he arrived in New York from Chicago on March 22, CNN reported.
The brother told the news outlet that he called the police after Daniel suddenly ran from his home, worried that he may have been struck by a train passing nearby.
Joe told a responding officer that Daniel had been on the drug PCP and was hallucinating earlier in the day and that he threw himself “head first” down a flight of 21 steps into a basement, according to CNN.
Daniel was taken to Strong Memorial Hospital but was there “only a few hours” before a medical taxi dropped him off back at Joe’s home, Joe said.
Daniel had been approached by cops in a different area of Rochester at around 3:16 a.m. shortly before the fatal police encounter.
Joe had told cops that Daniel began making paranoid statements that Joe and his wife were going to kill him, according to the news outlet.
“That is what prompted me to call for help, because that never happened…In all the years of me being in my brother’s life, my brother ain’t never behaved like that, so all I can say is the cry for help, it went unanswered,” Joe told CNN.