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Rochester, N.Y., Police Officers Involved In Daniel Prude's Death Are Suspended

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Seven police officers have been suspended in response to the asphyxiation death of Daniel Prude in Rochester, N.Y. Prude died in March, a week after officers put a hood designed to stop him from spitting over his head and held him, handcuffed and naked, on a Rochester street. The medical examiner in Monroe County ruled Prude's death a homicide. The case got little attention until this week, though.

NPR's Liz Baker is in Rochester. She joins me now. Hey there, Liz.

LIZ BAKER, BYLINE: Hi.

KELLY: So as we noted, this happened in March, six months ago. Now the mayor has just announced the officers involved will be suspended while an investigation plays out. Why now? Why the delay?

BAKER: Well, the delay - basically, the mayor says that because the attorney general's office has launched an investigation after the incident, that precluded the city and the police department from launching their own investigations. And she claimed that all day yesterday, protesters said that was a cover-up and it wasn't good enough. And today, the attorney general clarified that they had not asked the city of Rochester or the Rochester Police Department to refrain from launching an investigation. And she encouraged the city to launch their own investigations. And then right after that, the mayor announced the suspension.

KELLY: So sounds like some back-and-forth there between local bureaucracies - remind us just what happened on that March night. How did Daniel Prude come into contact with these police officers?

BAKER: It was actually a mental health wellness call. His brother Joe Prude called the police after his brother started acting strange. He left the house wearing hardly any clothes, and it was cold and snowing. He started wandering the streets and yelling. And so he called the police because his brother had a history of mental illness. The police, of course, showed up, and that encounter did not go as planned. He ended up receiving CPR, being taken to hospital and dying a week later.

KELLY: And I gather we're - we said the case was not getting much attention; now we're hearing all about it. This is because the police video came into the family's hands.

BAKER: Yes. The family lawyers, they issued a public information request for the video and other documents relating to this case. They got that, saw the video, saw how bad it was and released an edited version to local media. And things took off from there.

KELLY: Yeah. And it's painful to watch. I was taking a look at it. It's very difficult to watch and to listen to. You mentioned, Liz, that there have been protests because of this. News of Daniel Prude's death has brought protesters into the streets of Rochester. That was last night. Can you describe a little bit what happened and what the mayor came out and said?

BAKER: Yes. The mayor was apologetic for not acting sooner, and she was very, very clear that this case is an example of systemic racism.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

LOVELY WARREN: I believe that if Daniel Prude was white, all of those systems would not have failed him. It is time that we stop trying to not acknowledge that and call it for what it is. It's racism.

BAKER: Warren is the first Black woman to serve as Rochester's mayor, and a lot of those experiences came out in this press conference. She said she hadn't remained true to herself and would do better in the future.

KELLY: OK. NPR's Liz Baker joining us from Rochester, N.Y., and updating us on the news there - coming out today, seven police officers have been suspended. This is in response to the death of Daniel Prude back in March in Rochester. Liz, thank you very much for your reporting.

BAKER: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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