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New York probes suffocation of black man hooded by police

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Sep 04, 2020 - 04:04 AM

NEW YORK — Several hundred peaceful demonstrators marched Thursday in New York’s Times Square over the death of a black man that police hooded and forced face down on the road, according to video footage that prompted a probe from the state’s attorney general.

The demonstrators gathered under a steady rain 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 upstate in the city of Rochester.

Dubbing the footage “deeply disturbing,” New York’s governor Andrew Cuomo on Thursday said he had “full faith” the attorney general’s investigation would “ensure that justice is served.”

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

The news of yet another police killing of an African American triggered fresh outrage, three months after protests ignited nationwide over George Floyd, who was choked to death during an arrest while handcuffed.

Prude’s family demanded legal action against the officers involved, who were suspended on Thursday.

Letitia James, New York state’s top prosecutor, said an investigation was underway.

“Mr. Daniel Prude was failed by our police department, our mental health care system, our society and, he was failed by me,” Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren said.

“We cannot continue to fail black lives this way,” she told a news conference.

“Racism is alive and well in every system in America.”

Prude’s brother told journalists he had called police 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 pavement. Moments later he lost consciousness.

He died in hospital a week later, when life support was switched off.

Local media said an autopsy ruled the death a homicide caused by “complications of asphyxia in the setting of physical restraint.”

The report also listed a low level of the drug PCP in Prude’s blood.

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

Another flashpoint 

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

Officers generally use spit hoods as defense against blood-borne germs from suspects.

But they’ve been the subject of several lawsuits in recent years, as concerns mushroom over their safety.

Since the police killing in May of 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 abolition.

The presence of counter-protesters has frequently triggered violent clashes, 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 over 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.

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

Kizzee fled and when deputies caught him, he allegedly punched one of them and dropped a bundle of clothing, which police say contained a handgun.

And in Washington police on Wednesday fatally shot an 18-year-old black man after responding to reports of men with guns in a vehicle.

DC police said during a foot pursuit Deon Kay brandished a firearm before an officer shot him.

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