Rochester police union defends officers involved in Prude’s arrest

(Reuters) – The head of Rochester, New York’s police union on Friday defended the actions of officers involved in the March arrest of Daniel Prude, a Black man whose death triggered protests, saying they followed protocols in using a hood to restrain him.

“They had to do exactly what they did,” Rochester Police Locust Club President Michael Mazzeo told a news conference on Friday, adding that there was a “substantial amount of evidence to show why the protocols” used by the officers were employed.

Prude, a 41-year-old Black man, died after he was arrested by police in Rochester, New York, in March. The incident has become the latest flash point in a summer of civil unrest over racism and police brutality.

Prude’s family this week released body camera footage from his arrest, showing him kneeling on the ground, handcuffed and naked while a group of officers putting a hood over his head – apparently to prevent his spit from possibly transmitting the novel coronavirus. Release of the video triggered protests in the city in northern New York.

Seven police officers were suspended Thursday over the arrest.

The medical examiner has ruled Prude’s death a homicide caused by “complications of asphyxia in the setting of physical restraint.” An autopsy also cited intoxication by phencyclidine, or the drug PCP, among additional contributing factors to his death, according to the New York Times.

Separately, New York City detectives were investigating an incident in Times Square in Manhattan on Thursday evening during a protest over Prude’s death.

Video of the incident, shared widely on social media, shows a black Ford Taurus driving through a group of marchers and people on bicycles in Times Square, a major tourist destination and entertainment center in Manhattan.

New York City Police Commissioner Dermot Shea said on Friday that detectives were investigating the incident. He noted that no one has come forward with injuries and that two protesters had struck the window of the car.

“We have to interview both sides. We’d like to interview anyone that was in that vehicle, because we believe there was multiple people in that vehicle, and anyone that was on the scene,” Shea said on Fox 5’s Good Day New York.

(Reporting by Nathan Layne in Wilton, Connecticut; Editing by Dan Grebler and David Gregorio)