Journalism with a Touch of Shade
Lashaun Turner -Editorial
Since the death of George Floyd, public outrage and protests have been occurring all across the country and rightfully so. Finally a spotlight on what many of us have always known about police brutality and prejudice against Black Americans. George Floyd’s death sparked a movement to “Defund the Police” by divesting funds from police departments and reallocating them to non-policing forms of public safety and community support, such as social services, youth services, housing, education, healthcare and other community resources.
Mr Prude, 41, died in March but his death has just recently drawn attention after body camera video was released. His death came two months before that of George Floyd, who also died while in police custody, and sparked widespread outrage that incited national and international demonstrations against police brutality and racism.
In my opinion not every incident deserves the “George Floyd” response. I want to be very careful to avoid any impression of victim blaming or shaming, however, being doped up on PCP, running naked in the middle of the street is certainly a precursor to a potentially deadly interaction with police and others.
What happened to Daniel Prude?
The family said Prude was having a mental health episode and was under the influence of drugs early in the morning of March 23. Daniel Prudes’s brother Joe said he called police on 23 March as Daniel was showing acute mental health problems. Prude didn’t have any prior history of mental health issues according to his brother. When officers arrived, he had been running naked through the streets.
In police bodycam footage he can be seen lying on the ground as officers restrain him. While sitting on the road, he becomes agitated, alternately asking for money or a gun. He began spitting on the street and an officer says that Mr Prude told him he had Covid-19, and they place the spit hood on him.
At some point in the video one officer can be seen pressing down on Mr Prude’s head with both hands, saying “stop spitting”. Mr Prude stops moving and goes quiet, and officers note he feels cold. Paramedics are called and Mr Prude is taken to a hospital. He died a week later when family took him off life support.
The medical examiner ruled his death as a homicide caused by “complications of asphyxia in the setting of physical restraint”, with intoxication by the drug PCP, a contributing factor.
What is a spit hood?
Spit hoods are items that some corrections officers, police officers and paramedics place on a detainee’s head in certain circumstances to make it harder for that person to spit at, or bite, officers or others — potentially keeping at bay any communicable disease the wearer might have. Some are basically just a mesh sack, with a ring of elastic at the opening. Others add a layer of another material — sometimes fabric like that is used in a medical mask — on the bottom half where one’s mouth would be. The mesh is meant to let the wearer continue to breathe and see, while containing any spittle. (1)
Having worked as a Correctional Nurse I have seen many detainees being brought in wearing the hood. They would usually be so out of their minds on Meth or PCP that they would be behaving like animals. If you’ve never been in the presence of someone tripping out violent under the influence, then you probably don’t understand how as 1st responders, and those who are tasked to engage with these individuals, how necessary these hoods really are. Imagine yourself being spit on ( and it always seemed like they had GOBS and GOBS of saliva for some reason), imagine being spit or bit on, and in this particular case the person says I HAVE COVID -19 as well…
Thousands march through Rochester for Daniel Prude protest
Almost immediately after the bodycam footage was released to the public, Black Lives Matter (BLM) protesters took to the streets. Thousands of people have marched for several nights through some of Rochester neighborhoods demanding attention for the death of another Black man in police custody.
Protests started peacefully but turned violent when protesters started throwing bottles, rocks, and fireworks at officers. Police used pepper spray and pepper balls to try and break up the crowd. Eventually police deployed tear gas. Numerous arrests and injuries have occurred.
Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren ordered the immediate suspension of seven police officers involved in the death of Daniel Prude. Stating “the only way we can confront systemic racism in our city is to face it head-on.” “There can not be a justice system for white people and a justice system for Black people.”
The officers suspended are Troy Talladay, Paul Ricotta, Francisco Santiago, Andrew Specksgoor, Josiah Harris, Mark Vaughn and Sgt. Mark Magri.
It’s a bit confusing for me that BLM would amplify Prude’s death on the same level as George Floyd. It just doesn’t seem the same. George Floyd WAS executed by 9 minutes of suffocation while saying repeatedly “I can’t breathe”, the suffocation indeed was brutal and overkill. In that case you can clearly sense that the cop, Derek Chauvin, had an OBVIOUS indifference to that black man’s (human) life. I don’t think the same is true with Prude’s case as evidenced by the audio from the footage.
This Op-ED is not attempting to say that life doesn’t matter but in the context of any drugged out individual BLACK , YELLOW, BROWN OR WHITE, I actually believe under the same set of circumstances, Daniel Prude’s scenario could have played out the same for anyone finding themselves in that situation.. Obviously I concur we need a fair system. But what about Daniel Prude’s death was racially motivated or a result of systemic racism??
Again I think back to my own experiences and overwhelmingly the detainee’s were NOT people of color. Listening to officer’s on Prude’s bodycam video and also seeing the video, nothing wreaks of racial motivation. It was a take down like I’ve seen many times with all races of drugged out individuals. What I personally see that is questionable in this case is the officer holding his head down- I think that was unnecessary and contributed to Prude’s death. I don’t ever recall seeing take downs with a hooded person where the head was held in a suffocating manner. In my opinion that particular officer MAY be guilty of negligent homicide and should be charged as such.
There is a broader discussion to be had whether or not police should be called for situations of questionable acute mental illness. But there is also discussion and accountability that needs to take place for people who choose to use mind altering drugs.