From The New York Times, I'm Michael Will Borrow. This is The Daily. For months, the public was unaware of Daniel Pruett's death while in police custody, despite body camera video capturing it, raising questions about a possible cover up. My colleague Sara near the reports from Rochester. It's Tuesday, September 8th. Sarah, just to start, what have you learned about Daniel Prude in the time since this video of his arrest was released last week, the day after this really horrifying video was released?
I flew up to Rochester to learn more about the incident and about the person.
Oh, man. He's a straight up. And I swear to God, I've is going to get my job in your life and it's not going to change like Yellowstone.
So I ended up meeting with Joe Prude, Daniel Pearl's brother, and he told me that Daniel actually isn't from Rochester.
He's from Chicago. His brother in law, Daniel, had been living for many years where he was born and raised in Chicago with his sister Tamasha.
And about a week ago, he started acting strange.
Did you explain what he was doing? Well, like, you know, just talking like Tom, you know, I mean, it was like it got real. Real.
But she was disturbed by by worried for him about how he was speaking. Yeah. Yeah. Because I've really never told me that his sister called his brother Joe and said, you know, I'm going to send him up to you. And maybe you, as his big brother can talk some sense into him. So she puts Daniel on a train from Chicago to Rochester.
And he wasn't right about it being and he was saying people were out to get him.
And it was like that moment. And when I started hearing it more frequently, I said, oh, yeah, this game I got him. I got to get my brother together. So I told my wife on me the phone, she asked me what to do. I smell I'm wrong. And he started shouting.
So he called an ambulance and asked for his brother to be admitted because he was having a mental health crisis.
No, but right back home, it was just three hours later, after arriving at Strong Memorial Hospital, he was sent home in a medical taxi and his brother was shocked. Again, no, no, nothing. He felt that Daniel should be there under evaluation, but the doctor said, no, he's free to go. But did he look like when he came back? I would like to. Could you see I was on it? Shame, shame, shame.
He was ugly when he came. He gave me a little brother. Thank you for doing that for me. Really. It wasn't resentful. He was. No. So then the two of them sat down at the kitchen table at Joe's home on Child Street in Rochester, talking like two brothers, adult. And Daniel asked for a cigarette. Joe said he stood up, walked to his room to fetch a cigarette, and when he turned around, Daniel had streaked out the door barefoot into the freezing March weather, and that's when Joe called the police.
Hey, what's up? Good, how are you? And what happens next?
So at about 3:00 a.m. on March twenty third, a police officer arrived at Joe's house on Child Street taking report. What's happened? Who are we looking for?
Does he live here? No, he's here visiting me. Where does he live?
And one of the things that is really powerful when you know what transpired here is that Joe is super concerned for Daniel's safety.
I do know, man. I just know he took off running. It was a goddamn train coming. Which way did he go? I don't know which way you ran. Oh, honestly, I don't know if we all this. So you saw him run out the front door here. He ran out my back, ran out the back door. He ran out the back.
There's a train nearby and train tracks and he's very worried his brother is going to accidentally hurt himself.
You all know where he went. No, he didn't say anything. No. The only thing I'm hearing is that he was running that damn train. Yeah, but he didn't say so.
At some point when the officers in Joe's house with him taking a report, they hear over the radio right now.
But all I can say yes and no.
There's a male at that location with blood all over him telling people he's sick and he's not wearing clothes.
And Joe immediately knows that's my brother.
That's my brother who want three words like that, that maybe this male broken the and I think in the 40 year old black male with no shirt and long pants on four is your brother. Four hours from that. Through and. Later that same morning, an officer returns to Joe's house and tells him, your brother's in the hospital.
But the bosses just want me to hang out here with you until they figure some more small stuff out. Oh, sorry. Did you call immediately when he ran out? Oh, yeah. Oh, he used to run track. You can run. Oh, obviously. I mean, it's he's all the way down on Jefferson Avenue so. Yeah. No I'm glad you did. We're not that damn tree. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah.
And bear in mind, Joe has no idea why he's in the hospital. It was freezing cold out. It's late March. He thinks maybe hypothermia, maybe something bad happened while he was having this episode running around. He doesn't know what put him there.
I have no idea. He was naked. Yeah, he was. But that boy had to screw. I'll do the. I can't do that. We don't know what to do with him. I can't hear your captain. Oh. Oh, my. My sergeant sent me over here just to hang out with you guys in New York State had just gone on lockdown because of the pandemic about a week before.
And he can't visit him at the hospital. He can't go see his brother. No visitors are allowed at the height of the coronavirus.
No, I'm going to go I'm going to go make a phone call real quick and then I'll it back up with you guys just to see.
And it takes until March 30th when he gets a call from the hospital. You can come in and when he arrives at the hospital, he realizes that he can come in because time to decide whether or not to take his brother off of life support. And what does Joe do after that? Well, in the meantime, this week of being unable to know what happened to Daniel. Joe had contacted a lawyer he knew and said something's fishy. My brother ran out the door and never came back, and I need you to help me.
So on April 3rd, the lawyers filed what's called a preservation letter to the city of Rochester requesting all records be saved regarding Daniel Prude, and they file another request, a freedom of information law request, saying turn over the body cameras from the police officers who apprehended him and they don't hear anything back and they chalk it up to coronavirus and things are closed and life is very difficult. But while the family was sitting there in the dark about what had happened to him, other people knew something had gone down.
And we're looking into it. And one of those people was the state attorney general, Letitia James, on April 21st. Her office launched an investigation and there was another investigation going on, an internal one by the Rochester Police Department. They were reviewing the body camera footage that bear in mind the Pruett's had still never seen. And they concluded in late April that, quote, Based upon the investigation, the officer's actions and conduct displayed when dealing with proved appear to be appropriate and consistent with their training.
So Rochester police cleared their own officers. Yeah, but then on May 18th, Joe Prude gets something startling in the mail. It's the medical examiner's report on how his brother died.
And what does that say? It says at the top of it, Daniel Trud, manner of death, homicide and another cause of death. It says complications of asphyxia. And Joe, his brother, told me he didnt know what that word meant and he quickly looked it up on his phone. And it means suffocation, suffocation here on the report in the setting of physical restraint.
So the case remains under wraps even going into May, and it continues to stay locked down through June, through July until July 31st, when the attorney general invites the proud family to her office to view the body camera footage from the police. And it shows what really happened to Daniel, period. And what does the family see on that video?
What's his name? Daniel.
Sort of several separate videos from different officers, body cameras.
I right. There's snow lately falling and officer points his taser at Daniel, who's sitting on his knees on the ground totally naked. Get on the ground.
Get on the ground. Get on the ground. Get on the ground and get on the ground. Put your hands on your back. Behind your back. Don't move. Don't move. Chill out, man. Don't move. All right, man, don't move.
Daniel initially complies. Does what the officer says lets him place him in handcuffs? The officer actually says, well, that was easy and fast.
One male in custody. Can you reach in here and grab my hand sanitizer right here?
And it soon spirals and becomes very complicated.
I can't help it do. My brother Daniel starts spitting on the ground. He had told at least one passer by, according to 911 reports, that he had coronavirus in 30 minutes on the tow truck driver said to me, I'm in the army.
Yeah. Hey, and remember, this is the height of the pandemic. So officers put him in what's called a speed hood. It's a mesh hood, and they put it over his head and it sets Daniel off.
Stop spitting, man. He starts asking for the officer's guns and he's continuing to spit while wearing this hood. At one point, the officers say you're going to stay down and they press Daniel into the ground. Actually, one of the officers kind of makes a triangle with his hands and puts his full body weight onto Daniel's skull, pressing him down and they hold him against the pavement. One places their knee on his back even as the hood remains on his head and it's freezing out here.
He's been out naked for thirty minutes. It's pretty cool. Oh, I think it's to tell you, he says he has Corona, but he also I mean, I don't know. I can tell you at one point.
Daniel vomits Peukan Oh, he's puking in the street water, you see, all that water came out of his mouth and there's almost some joking between the officers about his condition is all water.
Oh, man, you peukan look at his. Oh, I think I saw the guy.
But quickly it becomes clear that Daniel is no longer moving and he might not be breathing anything, but he started throwing up.
Now it looks like he doesn't even have chest compressions and they begin to administer CPR. We need you. Ready? Yes. One, two, three. Well, he started expelling, like, all the clear liquid like he was throwing up so PCP can cause what we call excited delirium. Yeah, I know what excited delirium is. That's I guarantee you, that's why he voted no. It's not your problem. You got to keep. Yeah. Keep yourself safe.
But that's that's why I'm gonna throw in my door, get the final video from the body cameras is then approved in the hospital and supposedly he's released from Psych earlier. That's what I was going to hear from him. We'll be right back. Today takes new ways of working new measures toward health and safety, flexible terms for how you work, spaces designed with your purpose. It takes away work office to take your business where you want it to be.
We work. That's how tomorrow works. Visit. We work dot com slash tomorrow. Sir, what does the family do once they have seen this video footage? Bear in mind, Michael, that Daniel has been gone since March 30th and all this time they didn't know what had happened to him. Sitting in the attorney general's office watching that body camera footage is the first time they see what really went down. Joe Senior, his father, according to their lawyer, hyperventilated.
He had an asthma attack and he had to use an inhaler. A few weeks later, the family decides to go wide and they release those videos to the public. I placed a phone call for my brother, did you kill? Not for my brother to get lynched, you know, when I see get lynched. That was a full fledged ongoing murder, cold blooded, none other than cold blooded murder. Who can we hold accountable for this? Why was it a cover up?
Why did my brother get home when he complied with everything that the people wanted him to do? Why did he get treated like an African-American male from 1960? Just in case you choose to just doggle how many more brothers got to die for society to understand that this needs to stop and I can't even share with you all the pain that I'm feeling and my family is going to with. What is the reaction once these videos become public? So Rochester erupts in what now has become a familiar scene of protests against police brutality of black people, at the same time, the mayor announces that the seven officers who were involved in Daniel's arrest have been suspended from the force.
But if there was any hope that that would quell the protests, it did not. I watched as about 200 people gathered in front of the church on Jefferson Avenue, where Daniel Prude was pressed to the ground. It was a passionate, yet largely peaceful crowd. They ended up in front of police headquarters in Rochester, where they sat against barricades, calling for more reforms, chanting at police.
Why are you in riot gear? We don't see a riot here. And it quieted down and someone brought boxes and boxes of pizza. And as I stood there with them, while they were sitting on the ground eating pizza and chanting, suddenly those officers in riot gear rushed the crowd unprovoked and shot pepper spray all over them like they did something they did not. So that set off an escalation. Protesters pulled up barricades, ran at police with them. Police fired more noxious fumes at them.
And I watched as what had begun as a peaceful night emerged as something much more fraught. And Sarah, I have to imagine that part of the reaction here is based on just how long it has taken for the public to learn about what's happened. Right. I mean, the video is released four months after Daniel Pruett's death and after months and months of protests and counterprotests across the country about events just like this. That's another thing that's fueling a lot of the anger surrounding this.
There have been accusations of a cover up and just about everyone involved says, no, that's not the case, blaming other parties for the reason why they didn't come forward. The mayor, for example, her name is lovely.
Warren said that after our police department responded to the nine one one call on March twenty third, I was informed later that day by Chief Singletary that Mr. Pruit had an apparent drug overdose while in custody.
She had been told by the police that there was a death in custody, but Daniel had died of a drug overdose. Mm hmm.
She Singletary never informed me of the actions of his officers to forcibly restrain Mr. Pruit. I only learned of those officer's actions on August 4th.
And corporation counsel Tim Burton reviewed the video while fulfilling the foil request from Mr. Pru's attorney. And no time prior to August 4th, the Chief Singletary or anyone make me aware or show me a video of the actions of the RPV officers involved in Mr. Pru's death.
Mayor Warren said that on June 4th, about three months after Daniel died, but a week after George Floyd was killed, actually the attorney general's office asked the city not to release the camera footage. The pretext was to not interfere with the attorney general's investigation, which was ongoing. But the AG's office says this never happened, that this is just how long an investigation takes. And that to them explains the delay. The police chief came out the other day and said when we said this was an overdose, we were not covering up what we did here.
But the question is, why did it take so long for this to become public? Would we have found out about George Floyd, if not for the footage? Would we have found out about Jacob Blake if not for the footage? Often municipalities don't disclose this, and it's up to us to figure out why. What happened with Daniel Pruett is his family took it into their own hands to take his story public. And now it's our job to understand what took so long.
You know, sir, I'm mindful that in the early weeks following George Floyds death at the hands of police, much of the conversation was about the precise role that police do play and should play and the question of whether police are being asked to do too much. And this is at the heart of the conversation around defunding the police. This idea that, for example, police are not trained as mental health responders, they don't instinctively de-escalate. And the timing of what happened to Daniel Prude feels important here because it's easy to imagine that if what had happened to him had been known to the public back when it really happened, that Daniel Pruett would have been a potentially very important data point in that conversation.
But months have passed and now much of the conversation surrounding these deaths at the hands of police have become about the protests and the counterprotests and how they fit into the presidential election.
And in the days since this video of Daniel Pruett has been released to the public, we aren't really having the conversation you might expect us to be having around mental health and how the police respond when there's a 911 call.
Actually, that is the conversation that has just started happening in Rochester. Good afternoon. On Sunday, Mayor Warren announced, it is my solemn duty as a mayor of this city to honor Mr. Proud, to not let his death be in vain and to do everything possible to transform how we police our city to truly protect and serve our residents. We are doubling the availability of mental health professionals at.
She'll be removing the family crisis intervention team from the police department, where it's been for a long time into the Department of Youth and Recreation Services.
And I understand that there are certainly calls that law enforcement shouldn't handle alone.
And we are looking at ways to reimagine policing surrounding mental health and have been for the last several months, really, Rochester is taking steps to maybe say that police aren't the people who should be responding to every call all the time.
And maybe there are other ways to handle different crisis's. But nationally, you're right, Michael, the conversation has been about protests, about who does this get elected and not about police reform. Which really matters is creating a city that is dedicated to serving, protecting and lifting up the least among us. Well, we'll always pay me about the death. And Mr. Daniel, your proof is our failure to do that. We had a human being in need of help, in need of compassion in that moment.
We had an opportunity to protect him, to keep him warm, to bring him to safety, to begin the process of healing him and lifting him up. We have to own the fact that in that moment, we did not do that. Sir, I'm curious what Joe Prude now says about his decision to call the police that night because in his mind, the police would protect his brother from harm. I don't think that Joe gets a moment of rest from exactly that question.
What would have happened if I hadn't called police? I know a million people.
I was just basically telling you, you know, I mean, I regret following the people because that was my fault. Yeah. Yeah. He does have to be myself.
He's making that call. The police are taught you can call for help, right, that's who you call, so they prove me wrong. I don't think a million people telling you it's not your fault will help you. I won't. I know it's not that phone call was my fault. Thank you, sir. Thank you. Over the weekend, New York's attorney general, Letitia James, announced that she would impanel a grand jury to examine evidence in the death of Daniel Pruett, a move that was immediately applauded by Pruett's family.
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James Blake, who survived after being shot seven times by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin, broke his silence over the weekend in a video from his hospital bed.
Your life and not only just your life, your legs, some that you need to move around and move forward in life can be taken from you by this man.
Blake described debilitating injuries from the shooting, which he said required staples across his stomach and back.
His pain is no pain. It hurts to breathe. Her sleep hurts to move from side to side. First eat. And India has overtaken Brazil as the country with the second largest outbreak of the coronavirus as infections inside the country skyrocket on Monday alone. India reported nearly 91000 new infections, taking its total to more than four point two million.
That's it for The Daily. I'm Michael Barbaro. See you tomorrow. Today takes new ways of working new measures toward health and safety, flexible terms for how you work, spaces designed with your purpose. It takes a work office to take your business where you want it to be. We work. That's how tomorrow works. Visit. We work. Com tomorrow.