Thursday, January 28, 2021

AG releases body cam, dashboard video of 2 Black men who died in police custody

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Police body camera and dashboard footage recorded as part of investigations into the deaths of Daniel Prude and Troy Hodge was released to the public Friday. 

The 11 videos were released through New York Attorney General Letitia James’ Special Investigations and Prosecutions Unit, and they show interactions between Prude and Rochester police, and Hodge and Lockport police. James said the move was made to increase transparency. 

“Our criminal justice system is in need of significant reform to rebuild the trust between police and the communities they serve,” she said in a statement. “Key to that reform is increased transparency, which is why I am proactively releasing video footage from our active investigations into police-involved killings. All of our communities deserve transparency, accountability and justice, and I believe this is a critical step in moving us forward.”

Prude, a 41-year-old Black man, died in March, a week after responding officers placed a hood over his head to prevent him from spitting on them. He was held down for about two minutes before he stopped breathing.

Rochester officers found Prude, who was visiting family from Chicago, running naked in the street around 3 a.m. on March 23.

He died of asphyxiation and his death was ruled a homicide. Prude’s family released police body camera footage of the incident in September, which prompted protests with some rioting, the resignation of several officials, including the city’s police chief, and the suspension of seven officers. 

The videos released by James’ office show the encounter from the vantage point of officers Mark Vaughn, Andrew Specksgoor, Josiah Harris, Troy Taladay and Santiago Francisco, and Sgt. Michael Magri. They were among the officers suspended with pay. 

The footage doesn’t add any new information to the case, which is still under investigation by the attorney general. 

Hodge died after an encounter with members of the Lockport Police Department and the Niagara County Sheriff’s Office. Authorities said they responded to a call for an “out of control” person on June 15, 2019, and found the 39-year-old, WKBW-TV reported. 

The five videos show the vantage point of responding officers who arrived as other officers were with Hodge. The footage shows several officers pinning Hodge to the ground. One officer appears to have a foot on Hodge’s neck.

“Don’t kill me, man,” Hodge says. 

“No one’s going to kill you,” an officer replies. 

As he continues to struggle, one officer says: “We’re trying to help you here. You are on some stuff that we’ve got to get you clean of.”

He eventually losses consciousness. An EMT arrives and says she cannot find a pulse. Hodge was taken to a hospital where he was declared dead. An autopsy revealed he died of “homicide and acute cocaine intoxication,” according to the newspaper. 

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Both deaths are under investigation by James’ office. 

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