Eleven people were arrested and three officers were injured late Friday during protests and rioting in Rochester, New York, over the death of Daniel Prude.
Prude, 41, died in March from complications of asphyxia in the setting of physical restraint, according to an autopsy. Prude was taken into custody by a number of police officers in Rochester.
Video footage from the city showed a bus stop lit on fire. Another video showed demonstrators flipping over tables and smashing glass at outdoor restaurants while chanting “Black Lives Matter.”
“We’re shutting the party down,” one person who was part of the crowd shouted as diners fled from the scene.
Police officers ultimately declared an unlawful assembly, deployed crowd control munitions, and took people into custody.
Three people were charged with felony first-degree rioting, the Rochester Police Department said in news releases. Four of the 11 arrested were booked into Monroe County Jail while the others were cited.
Dispersal came after the crowd threw rocks and other projectiles at officers and set multiple fires, police said. Two officers suffered cuts and other injuries while the third suffered burns to their neck.
Anger at Prude’s death has stirred demonstrations in Rochester and New York City, where several were arrested during rioting on Friday.
According to the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, Joe Prude, Daniel Prude’s brother, told the crowd that “this is an unstoppable moment,” adding: “It’s time to get rid of them sons of [expletive].”
Mayor Lovely Warren, a Democrat, announced this week that the seven officers involved in the arrest of Prude were being suspended.
Prude’s relatives had called police to report that he was suffering from a mental episode. Officers found him running naked in the street. He initially complied when officers asked him to put his hands behind his back to be handcuffed. Later, Prude sat up and began spitting at the officers while saying he had contracted the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, which causes COVID-19.
Officers then put a spit guard over his head and pinned him to the ground face down for about two minutes to restrain him, after which he stopped breathing. Prude received CPR on the scene and was taken to hospital. He died seven days later, on March 30, after being taken off life support.
A medical examiner concluded that Prude’s death was a homicide caused by “complications of asphyxia in the setting of physical restraint.” The report lists excited delirium and acute intoxication by the recreational drug phencyclidine, or PCP, as contributing factors.
New York Attorney General Letitia James’s office took over the investigation into the death in April.
Warren told reporters that she only learned that Prude’s death involved the use of force last month. Police Chief La’Ron Singletary portrayed it as a drug overdose, she alleged.
“Experiencing and ultimately dying from a drug overdose in police custody as I was told by the chief is entirely different than what I ultimately witnessed on the video provided to me by the law department on August 4th,” the mayor said.
Prude “was failed by our police department, our mental healthcare system, our society, and he was failed by me,” she added.
Singletary told reporters earlier this week: “The investigation has to take its course.”
“This is not a cover-up. Let me be clear when I say that: This is not a cover-up whatsoever,” he added.
The mayor also claimed that James’ office asked her not to release information, a claim challenged by the attorney general.
“There was never a request from the Attorney General’s Office to the city of Rochester Corporation Counsel to withhold information about the events surrounding the death of Daniel Prude, plain and simple. Once again, the city of Rochester and the Rochester Police Department are free to move forward with their own investigation,” the office said.
Councilman Mitch Gruber, a Democrat, echoed calls by the Rochester Black Agenda Group for an independent probe, citing supposed inconsistencies in recent testimonies and press conferences.
“I call upon my City Council colleagues to exercise our subpoena authority to uncover the truth,” he said.
Black Lives Matter activists said police officers killed Prude.
“On March 23, 2020, the Rochester Police Department executed a black man named Daniel Prude,” Stanley Martin, a lead organizer with Free the People Roc, told reporters at a press conference this week.
“Mr. Prude was naked, defenseless, unarmed, and experiencing a mental health crisis.”
Elliot Shields, a lawyer representing Prude’s family, told reporters earlier Friday that “the whole system failed Daniel on the night of the incident” and “failed on holding these officers accountable.”
But Michael Mazzeo, president of Rochester’s police union, told reporters on Friday that the officers followed protocol.
“An officer doesn’t have the ability to go off-script,” he said. “They have to follow protocol and do what they are trained to do.”
If an investigation shows a need to change the way policing is done, he added, then changes should be made.
Mimi Nguyen Ly contributed to this report.