New York’s attorney general has disclosed police footage showing the final moments of residents Daniel Prude and Troy Hodge, who both died following encounters with officers, in what the AG called an effort at transparency.
State Attorney General Letitia James and her office’s Special Investigations and Prosecutions Unit released 11 videos on Friday, six detailing interactions between Daniel Prude and Rochester officers, while the remaining five show Hodge’s fatal run-in with police in Lockport in the summer of 2019.
“Our criminal justice system is in need of significant reform to rebuild the trust between police and the communities they serve,” James said in a statement, adding that the release of the videos is a “critical step” toward “transparency, accountability and justice.”
Key to that reform is increased transparency, which is why I am proactively releasing video footage from our active investigations into police-involved killings.
Captured in late March, one body cam video depicts officer Mark Vaughn as he responds to a situation in progress, with an agitated Prude seen naked on the ground, rambling incoherently to police at the scene.
As Prude begins to spit at officers, a hood is placed around his head, which appears to cause him further distress. Around five minutes into the clip, Prude proceeds to demand one officer’s gun and attempts to stand up, prompting Vaughn to press his head into the pavement to restrain him. Prude soon becomes unresponsive, giving no answer when Vaughn asks “You good, man?”
“He still moving his arms?” Vaughn is heard saying, adding “doesn’t look like he has chest compressions” before rolling the man onto his side. Paramedics attempt CPR moments later, with one emergency worker suggesting Prude suffered “excited delirium,” which she notes is a side effect of PCP intoxication.
That supposition was later supported by a medical examiner’s autopsy report, which found the drug was a contributing factor in Prude’s death, which the report ruled a homicide. The official cause was listed as “complications of asphyxia in the setting of physical restraint.”
The fatal encounter with Prude has sparked months of intermittent protests across Rochester and beyond, even prompting the abrupt resignations of the city’s police chief and deputy chief in September. “The mischaracterization and the politicization of the actions that I took after being informed of Mr. Prude’s death is not based on facts, and is not what I stand for,” the former chief, La’Ron Singletary, insisted at the time.
Though the case is still under investigation by the AG, it has so far resulted in suspensions for at least six officers, including Vaughn.
A lengthier clip – dated June 16, 2019 and taken from the body cam of a Lockport, New York deputy identified only by their last name, “Finley” – similarly begins with the officer responding to a call as a group of officers struggle with 39-year-old Hodge on the ground. One appears to have a foot on the man’s neck.
While officers ask whether he is armed, a distressed Hodge is heard pleading “Don’t kill me, man,” to which an officer responds: “No one’s going to kill you.”
After a brief struggle on the ground, Hodge is repositioned, but appears to be struggling to breathe and becomes unresponsive minutes later. Paramedics then place the man on a stretcher, with one EMT heard saying “We have no pulse, no nothing, guys.”
An autopsy later found that Hodge died of “homicide and acute cocaine intoxication,” however a lawyer representing his estate, James Grable, has disputed that finding and is pressing on with his own investigation – even as James continues her official probe.
“The fact of the matter is these police officers killed Troy Hodge. That’s as simple as it gets,” Grable told a local newspaper in June. “The cocaine didn’t kill him. He’d be alive, and he’d be with us today if they didn’t use excessive force on him.”
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