A light snow was falling on Rochester, N.Y., the streets empty and dark at 3 a.m., when the call came in over the police radio: A naked man was running outside, under the influence of PCP, and shouting that he had the coronavirus.
Rochester police officers arrived and handcuffed the man, Daniel Prude, 41. He sat in the road, rambling and incoherent, praising Jesus before demanding that the officers give him a gun, according to video footage of the March 23 encounter.
Then he began spitting on the ground. An officer unfurled a mesh hood — a safety device to prevent being spit on by prisoners — and pulled it over Mr. Prude’s head.
When he tried to rise, officers forced Mr. Prude facedown on the ground, one of them holding his head to the pavement, according to video from the officer’s body camera. Mr. Prude’s demands that the hood be removed turned into gurgling noises as an ambulance arrived. Moments later, Mr. Prude stopped breathing. He was revived in the ambulance and hospitalized, but he never regained consciousness. Seven days later, he died.
Those two fatal minutes, brought to national attention on Wednesday with the release of the raw police videos by Mr. Prude’s family, are the latest to roil yet another American city outraged by the death of a Black man in custody. Protesters took to the streets of Rochester, with Mr. Prude’s relatives raising questions familiar from prior fatal encounters with the police, such as why the officers have not been suspended.
On Thursday, the mayor of Rochester, Lovely Warren, suspended seven officers involved in the confrontation.
The disciplinary action was the first taken in the five-plus months since Mr. Prude’s death; on Wednesday, the state attorney general, Letitia James, made her first statement on the case, offering condolences to Mr. Prude’s family and promising “a fair and independent investigation,” which began not long after Mr. Prude’s death. “We will work tirelessly to provide the transparency and accountability that all our communities deserve,” she said.
In the wake of high-profile victims of fatal encounters with the police around the country, including George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, and the shooting of Jacob Blake, the lag between the death of Mr. Prude and the acknowledgment of an investigation by Ms. James and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo — both Democrats who have been outspoken on the issue of police brutality — was jarring.
On Wednesday evening, as outrage over the circumstances of Mr. Prude’s death spread, Mr. Cuomo said he had not seen the body camera footage. By Thursday, however, the governor was calling “for answers,” saying the video was “deeply disturbing,” and urging a quickening of the investigation.
“For the sake of Mr. Prude’s family and the greater Rochester community, I am calling for this case to be concluded as expeditiously as possible,” the governor said in a statement. “For that to occur, we need the full and timely cooperation of the Rochester Police Department and I trust it will fully comply.”
The Coronavirus Outbreak ›
Frequently Asked Questions
Updated September 1, 2020
Why is it safer to spend time together outside?
- Outdoor gatherings lower risk because wind disperses viral droplets, and sunlight can kill some of the virus. Open spaces prevent the virus from building up in concentrated amounts and being inhaled, which can happen when infected people exhale in a confined space for long stretches of time, said Dr. Julian W. Tang, a virologist at the University of Leicester.
What are the symptoms of coronavirus?
- In the beginning, the coronavirus seemed like it was primarily a respiratory illness — many patients had fever and chills, were weak and tired, and coughed a lot, though some people don’t show many symptoms at all. Those who seemed sickest had pneumonia or acute respiratory distress syndrome and received supplemental oxygen. By now, doctors have identified many more symptoms and syndromes. In April, the C.D.C. added to the list of early signs sore throat, fever, chills and muscle aches. Gastrointestinal upset, such as diarrhea and nausea, has also been observed. Another telltale sign of infection may be a sudden, profound diminution of one’s sense of smell and taste. Teenagers and young adults in some cases have developed painful red and purple lesions on their fingers and toes — nicknamed “Covid toe” — but few other serious symptoms.
Why does standing six feet away from others help?
- The coronavirus spreads primarily through droplets from your mouth and nose, especially when you cough or sneeze. The C.D.C., one of the organizations using that measure, bases its recommendation of six feet on the idea that most large droplets that people expel when they cough or sneeze will fall to the ground within six feet. But six feet has never been a magic number that guarantees complete protection. Sneezes, for instance, can launch droplets a lot farther than six feet, according to a recent study. It’s a rule of thumb: You should be safest standing six feet apart outside, especially when it’s windy. But keep a mask on at all times, even when you think you’re far enough apart.
I have antibodies. Am I now immune?
- As of right now, that seems likely, for at least several months. There have been frightening accounts of people suffering what seems to be a second bout of Covid-19. But experts say these patients may have a drawn-out course of infection, with the virus taking a slow toll weeks to months after initial exposure. People infected with the coronavirus typically produce immune molecules called antibodies, which are protective proteins made in response to an infection. These antibodies may last in the body only two to three months, which may seem worrisome, but that’s perfectly normal after an acute infection subsides, said Dr. Michael Mina, an immunologist at Harvard University. It may be possible to get the coronavirus again, but it’s highly unlikely that it would be possible in a short window of time from initial infection or make people sicker the second time.
What are my rights if I am worried about going back to work?
The Monroe County medical examiner ruled Mr. Prude’s death a homicide caused by “complications of asphyxia in the setting of physical restraint,” according to an autopsy report.
“Excited delirium” and acute intoxication by phencyclidine, or the drug PCP, were contributing factors, the report said.
Nonetheless, the stark scene — a Black man, handcuffed and sitting in a street, wearing nothing but a white hood — seemed a shocking combination of physical helplessness and racist imagery from another era.