by Kathy Araujo
Background: After decorating our maple tree with photos and names of people from the "Say Their Names" project, a campaign that remembers victims of police brutality we asked parishioners to take an ornament home, research the person and spend time in prayer for the victim. We then asked if participants were willing to share their experience. Here is our first story.
When we were asked to choose one of the people displayed on our maple tree in the Meditation Garden and pray for them, I chose Daniel Prude – for no other reason that I could reach him on the branch. I took him home and did some research, never realizing that he died in police custody, 7 days after his arrest. As I read the horrific details of his death, I began to understand that George Floyd’s death was the tip of the iceberg. I remember sitting at the computer, staring at the screen and shaking my head – over and over again. Dear God.
Here’s the story.
On March 23, 2020, Daniel Prude, a 41-year-old African American was fatally injured after being physically restrained by Rochester, New York, police officers. Prude had been suffering from a mental health episode after ingesting PCP. The officers put a spit hood over his head after he began spitting. They held him face down on the pavement for two minutes and fifteen seconds, and he stopped breathing. Mr. Prude pleaded to be let up, but he seemed to struggle to breathe, according to the body cam footage. His words turned to gurgles, then stopped. After two minutes, Mr. Prude was no longer moving or speaking, and an officer asked, “You good, man?”
When paramedics arrived, Mr. Prude had no heartbeat, and they began CPR. He was revived and taken to a hospital. He later died of complications from asphyxia after being taken off life support.
The autopsy report ruled Prude's death a homicide and also included the contributing factors to his death as "excited delirium and acute intoxication by phencyclidine, or PCP". The killing first received attention in September 2020 (remember, the incident happened in MARCH!) when the police body cam video and written reports were released along with the autopsy report. Seven Rochester police officers involved in the encounter with Mr. Prude were suspended on Sept. 3, the day after the release of the body camera footage and more than five months after Mr. Prude’s death. The disciplinary action was the first taken in the more than five months since Mr. Prude died.
It’s too late to pray for Mr. Prude. But it isn’t too late to pray for justice for him!
Dear God, open the hearts of those who perpetrate this horrific and cruel behavior and those who turn a blind eye to the suffering of the helpless who feel the brutal force of another person’s knee on their neck. Help us find the courage to speak up and demand justice for those who can no longer speak for themselves. Amen.
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