Prude Death Investigation

With prayer and songs, local activists, elders peacefully call for change and transparency for Daniel Prude

Local News

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Sunday was the fifth night of protests after the news broke last week of the killing of Daniel Prude in police custody.

More than 1,000 people took to the streets to demand justice for Prude.

Prude, a 41-year-old Black man from Chicago, died after an encounter with Rochester police back in March, but news of the incident just came to light Wednesday, and now the case is being investigated by the New York State Attorney General’s Office.

The autopsy report from the Monroe County Medical Examiner’s Office ruled the death of Prude a homicide. The report says Prude’s cause of death includes “complications of asphyxia in the setting of physical restraint.” The report also showed that Prude also had a small amount of PCP in his system at the time of his death, which could explain his erratic behavior.

Seven Rochester police officers have been suspended with pay in connection to the incident: Officers Mark Vaughn, Troy Taladay, Paul Ricotta, Francisco Santiago, Andrew Specksgoor, Josiah Harris, and Sgt. Michael Magri.

Protests have been ongoing in Rochester since the news broke Wednesday. 

Sunday’s protest remained peaceful and no one was arrested, in contrast with the protests over the weekend where several people were injured and arrested.

Reverend Myra Brown of Spiritus Christi Church led a coalition of elders to serve as a buffer between protesters and police during demonstrations, after calls by activists that Rochester police have used excessive force with pepper bullets, and tear gas. Roughly 50 of those elders answered the call.

“As we come together, we’re going to pray they’re going to seek God and they’re going to find and resolve for at least our community not just what we’re standing against, but resolve for us. What’s going to bring peace,” Senior Pastor at Rock Hope Fellowship Church Jerrard Brown said.

The stood behind the barricades at the Public Safety Building as they awaited the protesters to arrive from Jefferson Avenue — praying and singing songs. Some elders prayed non stop throughout the event as local Black Lives Matter leaders spoke for hours wanting justice for Prude and transparency from elected officials.

“We’re hoping that as clergy, we can stand as a spiritual barrier between protesters and police. We’re hoping that we’re able to demonstrate in a way that gets the point across and things have to change and hoping for transformation in our city,” Pastor of Greater Harvest Church Rev. Sebrone Johnson said.

Some local lawmakers are not happy with this decision to place elders on the front lines, and take issue with police tactics used to disperse the crowds over the past few nights.

Monroe County Legislator Rachel Barnhart (D-21) said more should be done to protect protesters who were fired upon with pepper balls by police Saturday night.

“I saw some small plastic bottles and a sparkler being thrown in the direction of police and police almost instantaneously open fired on about 1,000 protesters gather,” she said. “First she’s acknowledging that protesters need protection from police. Second, I don’t know if anyone understand the danger that this is putting people in to use them as a human shield.”

Although things ultimately proved peaceful Sunday night, Barnhart was on the protest front lines for Saturday when tensions flared.

Barnhart was among the many protesters struck by projectiles fired from police.

Other elected leaders caught in the confrontation Saturday included City Council members Mary Lupien (D-East), Mitch Gruber (D-At-large), and Michael Patterson (D-Northeast).

The elders agreed to do this so the voices of demonstrators could be heard as they continue to demand police reform and allocating funds to social services.

Check back with News 8 WROC as we will continue to update this developing story.

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