Protests erupt after Rochester, N.Y., police release video of arrest, asphyxiation

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Sept. 3 (UPI) -- Protesters and officers clashed outside a law enforcement building in Rochester, N.Y., in response to authorities releasing the arrest footage of a Black man who died after police placed a covering over his head and held him to the ground.

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."

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