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Lawyers: Police followed training in fatal run-in with Prude

October 1, 2020 GMT

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (AP) — The seven police officers suspended over the killing of Daniel Prude after he was restrained on a city street followed their training “flawlessly” and deserve to be reinstated, attorneys for the officers said Thursday.

“It’s easy from a lay person’s perspective to sit back and judge what happened on that night,” attorney James Nobles said at a news conference with three other attorneys at the police union office.

The attorneys played police training video of the restraining technique known as “segmenting” they said was used on Prude after officers encountered him naked and apparently under the influence of phencyclidine, or PCP, in March. The training video shows one officer kneeling on the back of a face-down subject, while a second officer uses his body weight to press the subject’s head to the ground.

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The image is similar to police body camera video released last month showing Prude being held to the pavement by police who also handcuffed him and put a mesh spit hood over his head. The officers held him down for about two minutes until Prude stopped breathing. He was taken off life support and died a week later.

The Monroe County medical examiner listed the manner of death as homicide caused by “complications of asphyxia in the setting of physical restraint” and cited PCP as a contributing factor.

Attorney Matthew Rich said Prude’s use of PCP, which caused irrational behavior, was “the root cause” of Prude’s death, not the officers’ response.

Attorney General Letitia James announced Sept. 5 that she would empanel a grand jury to investigate. The City Council also has approved an investigation.

The Prude family’s release of the video last month ignited daily protests in Rochester and led to the replacement of the police chief.

Protesters, who gathered outside during the news conference, have called for the officers who interacted with Prude, who was Black, to be fired. They are suspended with pay.

“There may need to be conversations about training and conversations about who responds to a mental health intervention. But under the facts and circumstances as they’ve been provided in this case, these officers did exactly what they were trained to do and they did it flawlessly,” said Nobles, who represents Officer Mark Vaughn.

An email requesting comment was sent Thursday to a spokeswoman for Mayor Lovely Warren.

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The lawyers also defended the officers’ decision not to cover the naked Prude with a blanket or put him in a police car while awaiting an ambulance as a light snow fell, saying the PCP made him feel hot. The officers were with Prude for 11 minutes before he was put in the ambulance, they said.

Rich said one of the officers, Paul Ricotta, was not at the scene when Prude was being restrained, and another, Andrew Specksgoor, was in his patrol car. The other suspended officers are: Josiah Harris, Troy Taladay, Francisco Santiago and Sgt. Michael Magri.