The mayor of Rochester, N.Y. has suspended the police officers involved in the death of Daniel Prude, a Black man who died of suffocation in March after police reportedly placed a “spit hood” over his head and pressed his face into the pavement for two minutes.
“I am suspending the officers in question today against council’s advice, and I urge the attorney general to complete her investigation,” Mayor Lovely Warren said during a Thursday news conference. “I understand that the union may sue the city for this, they shall feel free to do so — I have been sued before.”
Seven police officers will be suspended with pay in connection with the March 23 incident. Prude had been running through the streets naked in apparent mental distress when police detained him.
The 41-year-old died a week later after being taken off life support.
“Mr. Daniel Prude was failed by our police department, our mental health care system, our society and, he was failed by me,” Warren said, according to WROC. “Daniel Prude’s death has proven yet again that many of the challenges that we faced in the past are the same challenges that we face today.”
The suspension came hours after members of the City Council sent a letter to the mayor, calling for the officers to be placed on administrative leave. Other demands included the dismissal of all charges against demonstrators arrested Wednesday, a financial commitment to mental health services and a less aggressive police response to protests.
The office of New York Attorney General Letitia G James (D) began an investigation into Prude’s death in April, but video footage of the incident released by Prude’s family brought renewed attention to the situation on Wednesday.
“I know that I must do better as a leader in this community,” Warren said. “The buck stops today with me, here, at City Hall. We must as a society, a city, a community face the truth. Institutional and structural racism led to Daniel Prude’s death.”
In a remote press conference on Thursday, Prude’s 18-year-old daughter blamed “racist” police for her father’s death.
“A racist police officer saw a Black man in need and decided that he just didn’t deserve to live,” Tashyrah Prude said. “I don’t understand how anybody could say or feel like he was a threat to the police when he complied with all orders.”
“There’s nothing that anyone could say that could convince me that he was a threat to the police officers.”