ROCHESTER, N.Y. – Daniel Prude appeared to be spiraling into crisis in the hours before police handcuffed him on a city street in March, then pinned the naked man face down.
The 41-year-old had been thrown off a train the day before for disruptive behavior. He was sent to a hospital for a mental health evaluation after he was said to have expressed suicidal thoughts. Prude apparently stopped breathing as police in Rochester, New York, were restraining him and died when he was taken off life support a week later.
Prude's death and the actions of the police officers — who covered the man's head with a “spit hood” during the confrontation — have intensified the debate over whether police should be responding to calls about people suffering mental health crises.
Activists who have marched nightly in this city by Lake Ontario since police body camera videos of the encounter were released Wednesday say more needs to be done to hold the city accountable and to help others like Prude.
“That was was a distress call for help,” said his older brother, Joe Prude. “He wanted somebody to grab him up and help him, not sit here and mock him and taunt him, laugh at him like a piece of meat. And that’s what they did.”
A union leader on Friday defended the officers involved in the encounter, saying they were strictly following department training and protocols, including using the mesh hood to stop Prude from spitting.
“To me, it looks like they were watching the training in front of them and doing step by step what the training says to do,” said Michael Mazzeo, president of the Locust Club. “If there’s a problem with that, let’s change it.”
Family members insisted the man seen shouting in muffled anguish does not capture the loving one they knew.