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New York probes suffocation death of black man hooded by police

This image taken from police bodycam video released by the Rochester, New York, Police Department, shows police arresting Daniel Prude on March 23, 2020 after putting a hood on his head - - / ©AFP
A March 23,2020 image taken from police bodycam video released by the Rochester Police Department, showing police arresting Daniel Prude, who died following the altercation - - / ©AFP

(AFP)

Protests were planned for New York Thursday over the death of a black man who police hooded and forced face down on the road, according to video footage that prompted a probe from the state’s attorney general.

Demonstrators will gather in New York City’s Times Square to demand justice for Daniel Prude, whose family said he died on March 30 after being removed from life support, seven days after the police encounter in the city of Rochester.

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The 41-year-old’s family along with activists made his death public on Wednesday, after receiving body cam footage through an open records request.

The revelation — the latest in a spate of police killings of black people in the United States — triggered fresh outrage three months after mass demonstrations gripped the United States over the police killing of George Floyd.

Prude’s family have called for legal action against the officers involved, who are still on the force. Letitia James, New York state’s top prosecutor, said an investigation was underway.

Prude’s brother told journalists he had called police on March 23 as Daniel suffered a mental health episode.

“I placed a phone call for my brother to get help, not to get lynched,” Joe Prude said outside Rochester’s City Hall Wednesday.

“How many brothers have to die for society to understand this has to stop?”

When officers arrived Prude was unarmed and naked in the road, according to the video.

Police ordered an initially compliant Prude to get on the ground, but after being handcuffed he became increasingly agitated.

Officers then put a “spit hood” on him and forced his head to the ground. Moments later he lost consciousness.

An emergency medical technician tried to resuscitate him before he was taken to hospital. He died a week later when life support was switched off.

According to the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, an autopsy called the death a homicide caused by “complications of asphyxia in the setting of physical restraint.”

The report also noted a low level of the drug PCP in Prude’s blood, listing it as a complication.

“He was treated inhumanely and without dignity,” community organizer Ashley Gantt said.

“These officers killed someone and are still patrolling in our community.”

On Wednesday some 100 protestors gathered in Rochester, a city home to approximately 200,000 people in western New York state to protest Prude’s death.

– Another flashpoint –

At a separate news conference Rochester police chief La’Ron Singletary acknowledged anger over Prude’s death but emphasized that the delay in releasing the video was “not a cover-up.”

Officers generally use spit hoods as defense against blood-borne pathogens if someone apprehended spits or bites.

But they’ve become the subject of several lawsuits in recent years, raising concerns over their safety.

Since the police killing in May of George Floyd in Minneapolis, demonstrations linked to the Black Lives Matter movement have rocked the nation, with many calling for significant police reforms including defunding or abolishment.

Opponents of the movement have also protested, frequently leading to violent clashes and pushing law and order high up the agenda for November’s presidential election.

News of Prude’s death comes in the wake of social unrest of the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a black father shot seven times in the back by a white officer in the Wisconsin city of Kenosha. 

Protests also sparked in Los Angeles this week after police shot and killed Dijon Kizzee, a black man who was riding a bicycle, apparently in violation of vehicle codes.

Kizzee ran away and when deputies caught up to him, he punched one of them and dropped a bundle of clothing, which police say contained a handgun.

And in the capital city Washington police fatally shot an 18-year-old black man after responding to reports of a man with a gun. In a statement the force there said during a foot pursuit Deon Kay brandished a firearm before an officer shot him.

Body camera footage in that incident is under review and the officers involved have been placed on administrative leave.

Maggy DONALDSON

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