Daniel Prude was killed by Officer Mark Vaughn of the Rochester Police Department while visiting Rochester on March 23, 2020. The incident began when RPD made contact with Prude, who was experiencing a mental breakdown. He was 41 years old.
Officers ordered Prude to get on the ground and then put a spit hood over his head. According to USA Today, Vaughn held him down with this body weight and used a restraint known as the hypoglossal nerve technique, which involves jamming fingers into a nerve below the jaw to cause pain and push a person to comply. At this point Prude said "You're trying to kill me". He stopped breathing after Vaughn restrained him face down for two minutes and fifteen seconds. Officers did not perform CPR until an EMT asked them to do so. The hold used on Prude put him on life support but seven days later he was taken off of it and died on March 30. He died from complications arising from asphyxiation.
Prude's autopsy report concluded he died by homicide. In September 2020, body-worn camera footage and reports were released to the Prude family lawyer, Elliot Dolby-Shields. Protestors and organizations, including Black Lives Matter, began demonstrations outside the RPD headquarters and the City Public Safety Building, where photojournalist Amber James began documenting the community's response to this murder.
Amber James photographed these demonstrations almost every night. Starting September 2nd, 2020 protestors marched, chanted and demanded justice on the streets of Rochester. Protests the following nights began peaceful, but ended in violence. Protestors threw rocks and bottles, and police shot rubber bullets, tear gas canisters and pepper balls. During a night of documenting, James was shot with a rubber bullet that she said was "probably some of the worst pain [she's] ever experienced". The following night she witnessed a pepper ball shot at close range at a protestor's eye. He was bleeding and immediately taken to the hospital.
On September 4th, a large protest began in Martin Luther King Jr. Park and ended at the Court Street Bridge. Demonstrators used shields made from trash can lids and wore protective gear. Police set up a blockade on the bridge, which trapped protestors. Officers tear gassed protestors and used snatch and grab tactics to arrest protestors. Eventually the crowd was able to get away and people began to disperse.
Later that night, James and her colleagues came together and began to discuss travel plans to get home. Officers suddenly rushed at the group of about 20 with pepper spray. She was sprayed and this caused a loss in hearing and vision. She has asthma and because of this she began to hyperventilate. James commented, "I was helpless." She felt that she didn't know where she was. Eventually her colleagues helped her wash out the tear gas residue and gave her an inhaler.
On September 5th, protesters were tear gassed and hit with pepper balls at another police roadblock. A small group of demonstrators fled to a nearby church for sanctuary. Police then surrounded the church and attempted to force them out using pepper balls and tear gas canisters. They arrested anyone who came out. Protestors used the church's rear windows to escape into getaway vehicles. Others stayed inside for up to four hours. The next day, damage on the outer walls of the church could be seen. Pepper ball residue and chips in the church's brick wall were visible from where officers shot projectiles.
Demonstrations went into a second week, but they began ending peacefully. James was on the ground to photograph some of these events. On September 10th, the family of Daniel Prude flew to Rochester from Chicago to hold a celebration of life with hundreds of people from the community. Danielle Ponder sang and people gave speeches.
On February 23, 2021, New York Attorney General Letitia James made the announcement that the seven officers involved in the killing of Daniel Prude would not be charged. The Associated Press reported that leaders within the department pushed the city to keep the body-worn camera video from being released. This killing took place two months prior to the murder of George Floyd.