Rochester, New York is now trying to turn into Portland

While this story hasn’t garnered as much national attention as George Floyd or Jason Blake, it’s quickly picking up steam. Back in March of this year, Daniel Prude, a 41-year-old Black man from Rochester, New York, died after being taken into police custody. The fact that he was naked in the middle of a street (obviously unarmed) and that the police had put a bag over his head until he was apparently asphyxiated made for an ugly set of visuals. He was pronounced brain dead at a local hospital and died roughly one week later.

Recently, video of Prude’s arrest showed up in the media and the response since then has grown like wildfire, following a similar pattern that we’ve seen in Portland, Minneapolis, Kenosha and other locations. The first night after the video went viral, a few dozen protesters showed up near a local police precinct. By Saturday night, their numbers had grown into the thousands and the police were under direct, physical assault. But as with so many of these stories, there is more to the tale of Prude’s demise than might first meet the eye. (NY Post)

Police fired tear gas and pepper balls at the biggest protest so far in upstate New York over the death of Daniel Prude — with at least three cops injured and nine people arrested by early Sunday.

At least 1,500 protesters took to the streets of Rochester Saturday for the fourth night of protests since disturbing video emerged of 29-year-old Prude’s death in March that will now be investigated by a grand jury…

“Officers remained steadfast while being hit with bottles and ordering the crowd to disperse,” the force said in a statement.

Three officers were “treated at local hospitals for injuries sustained as a result of projectiles and incendiary devices which were launched against them,” Lt. Greg Bello told the Democrat & Chronicle.

Here’s some video of the protests and rioting from social media.

In trying to get to the bottom of what started all of this mayhem, we need to look more closely at what happened on the night that Prude encountered the Rochester police. Why was he naked in such relatively cool/cold weather? What drew the attention of the cops? We have since learned that Mr. Prude was suspected of having mental health issues and had been “repeatedly in contact with law enforcement.”

As it turns out, Prude was heavily under the influence of PCP, and his own brother had called 911 after growing alarmed over his “erratic behavior.” The cops had already taken him into custody earlier the same day for a mental health evaluation “because of suicidal thoughts.” Prude was taken to a hospital where he stayed for a few hours for the evaluation, but then he was released on his own recognizance.

In the original video (linked above), you can hear Prude spouting all manner of incomprehensible nonsense, including yelling for the police officers to “look at” his genitals. He was quickly handcuffed and seemed to be under control, though he was still acting out in an unpredictable fashion.

So why did he wind up with a hood over his head? Because he began spitting at the cops, and during the era of COVID-19, that’s a safety concern, so a “spit hood” was placed over his head. His face was pressed into the ground for approximately two minutes until he eventually stopped struggling. But is that what killed him? When the ambulance arrives, you can hear the paramedic telling the police officers that they weren’t responsible, saying that “PCP causes ‘excited delirium’ and I guarantee you that’s why he coded.”

The medical examiner would eventually determine that Prude’s death was a homicide, but offered what seemed like conflicting factors in what caused it. They ruled that it was caused by “complications of asphyxia in the setting of physical restraint, excited delirium [and] acute phencyclidine [PCP] intoxication,” So which was it? The hood over his head or the PCP? Or some combination of both?

It’s going to require a full investigation to determine if the officers’ handling of Prude during the arrest contributed to his death and whether or not there was any malice or at least negligence involved. In the meantime, three police officers have been hospitalized and fires and looting are breaking out around Rochester, New York after six straight nights of unrest. As we’ve seen in other cities, Mayor Lovely Warren has already gone on television to promise police reforms in the face of the spiraling unrest. She has moved the city’s crisis intervention team out of the police department and into the Department of Youth and Recreation Services. She also suspended all seven of the police officers who were involved with the arrest pending a full investigation.

Stay tuned. I have a feeling that we’re going to be hearing a lot more out of Rochester in the coming days and weeks.