News10NBC Investigates: Daniel Prude's final hours

Berkeley Brean
Updated: November 10, 2020 09:34 AM
Created: November 09, 2020 02:46 PM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — One of the most critical stories in 2020 in Rochester was the death of Daniel Prude. He stopped breathing in Rochester Police custody last March and died 10 days later after he was removed from life support. 

Look at what's happened since we learned about his death in September. 

News10NBC wants to take you back to the man — Daniel Prude. News10NBC found new police body camera video that shows Prude on that fateful day, and it helps us understand that last 24 hours of his life. 

9:30 p.m. on March 21 in Chicago

On the evening of March 21, 2020, Prude left the Chicago apartment he shared with his sister and got on a train bound for Rochester. 

Chief Investigative Reporter Berkeley Brean: "Why did he want to come here?"

Don Thompson, attorney: "I think it's more his sister wanted him to come here."

Thompson is the attorney for Prude's father, brother, and sister. He says Prude was starting to behave in ways that made his sister uncomfortable. 

Don Thompson: "He didn't seem like himself, so she sent him to live with Joe to figure out what was going on."

Joe is Prude's brother who lives in Rochester. 

8:35 a.m. on March 22 in Depew, New York

On the morning of March 22, we find the first sign of trouble. 

Prude was ordered off the Amtrak train when it arrived at the Buffalo-Depew station. 

The Depew Police report includes "Customer trouble," "Prude, Daniel," "refusing to listen to orders, continues to smoke on train," and "Prude left train with no incident."

Depew Police reports say their officer watched Prude walk to a "bus stop." 

Depew Police called the Rochester Police Department (RPD) looking for Prude's family. The police report says the RPD "had no info."

Prude walked four miles into the town of Cheektowaga, and trouble followed him. 

The Cheektowaga Police report includes: "Cheektowaga Police Department," "Larceny-other," "Prude, Daniel," "black duffle bag," "took a cell phone," and "sat down in bleachers."

News10NBC obtained body camera video from Cheektowaga Police of Prude never before seen by the public. Cheektowaga Police blurred the video over Prude's face. 

When Cheektowaga Police stopped Prude a block from the park where the cell phone was stolen, the video shows Prude upended his duffle bag, sending papers flying all over the street. Police believe he did that to show he didn't have the phone. 

Officer 1: "Are you from Chicago?" 
Prude: "Yes, sir." 
Officer 1: "Do you have any family that lives over here?"
Prude: "No, sir, that's why I was, I was just trying to get closer, sir." 
Officer 2: He's trying to get to Rochester."
Prude: "I'm trying to just get closer. If you could just put me closer. That's what I'm getting at. My car is that way."

Not only did Prude not have a car, but he also had no phone and no money. He was 80 miles from his brother's home in Rochester. 

Officer 1: "Where are you trying to go? What is your ultimate goal here?" 
Prude: "To my family's house." 
Officer 1: "I get that, but how are you going to get there?" 
Prude: "Huh?" 
Officer 2: "What's the address?"
Prude: "It's Fifth, it's right off..."
Officer 1: "Did he show you ID at all? Do you have ID in there?" 
Prude: "Yes, sir. Yes, sir."

Police asked if Prude wanted to go to a shelter and asked him if he was under the influence.

Prude: "I drink. I was drinking. I drink a lot of beers."
Officer 1: "Okay, are you drunk right now?"
Prude: "Yes, sir. Yes, sir. And I smoke a little PCP and marijuana every now and then."

Prude's autopsy showed PCP in his system. On the Cheektowaga Police body camera video, you hear officers say they don't smell alcohol on Prude's breath. 

It was 11:40 a.m. just outside Buffalo. In 16 hours, Prude would be handcuffed, pinned by RPD officers to a cold and damp Jefferson Avenue, and not breathing. 

At the moment, Cheektowaga Police put him in the back seat of one of their SUVs. 

Officer 1: "Okay, have a seat."
Prude: "Help me out." 
Officer 1: "Yep."

What happened after Prude was put into the police SUV? 

It was 11:40 a.m. on March 22. In Buffalo, Prude was kicked off the train taking him from Chicago to his brother's house in Rochester because he wouldn't stop smoking.

Now, three hours after leaving the train, Prude was with Cheektowaga Police because he was accused of stealing a cell phone out of a town truck. Prude was stranded 80 miles from his brother's home with no phone and no money. 

Prude: "I ain't got a dollar man."

Officer: "Okay. Do you want us to take you to a shelter? A homeless shelter?" 

Prude: "Yes, sir. Yes, sir. Yes, sir."

It was at this moment Cheektowaga Police decided they're not going to arrest Prude for taking that cell phone. But they're not going to leave him alone either. So, they put him in the back of one of their cars, and they take him to the main shelter in downtown Buffalo. 

On March 22, Cheektowaga Police had only started using body cameras, and not every officer had one. The camera assigned to the officer taking Prude to the shelter still had the old fashion camera on the dashboard. 

At 12:04 p.m., the police and Prude arrived at the shelter. 

Officer 2: "Just sit tight for one second, alright?" 
Prude: "Yep."
Officer 1: "I'm going to run inside real quick."

The officer walked into the Buffalo City Mission. Seven minutes later he was back. The Mission was at capacity because of COVID-19. 

Officer 2: "So, unfortunately, they are not taking more people because they're scared of this stupid virus too." 
Prude: "That's crazy."

The officer said he was going to take Prude to another shelter. The video shows Prude told him to leave him at the Mission and his brother will come and get him. 

Officer 2: "Oh, I get that, but you're in Buffalo, man. Even if he drives here right now from Rochester, it's going to take him at least an hour and a half to get here. So, I don't want to leave you standing on the street in the cold for an hour. So, I'd rather take you there, you know? Alright?"
Prude: "Alright."

Prude and the police arrived at the Harbor House in Buffalo five minutes later. 

Officer 2: "Let me get your bag out for you."

Over the past two months, New10NBC's Chief Investigative Reporter Berkeley Brean has gone to the Harbor House and contacted its director. They could not provide any information on Prude including whether he checked into the facility or asked for help.

There are no other reports of contact between Prude and Buffalo area police. According to police reports, after a series of phone calls between Depew Police and Rochester Police, Joe Prude learned his brother was in downtown Buffalo. 

Brean: "So, what does Joe do when he figures out where Daniel is?"
Thompson: "Well, he goes to Buffalo to get him. And then he brings him to Rochester at his house."

None of the Prude family members agreed to talk to News10NB for this story. We know that by 4 p.m. March 22, Prude was at his brother's house in Rochester. 

Three hours later, at 7:10 pm, Joe Prude called 911 asking that his brother be taken to the hospital. 

Thompson: "He starts talking about God and visions of God, and he'd never known Daniel to do that before."

RPD body camera video obtained by News10NBC shows the moments when officers arrive at Joe Prude's house after Joe calls 911. The video shows officers taking Prude into custody inside Joe's kitchen. 

At one point, Prude says "They're going to kill me. In Jesus Christ, I pray. Amen."

At 7:30 p.m. on March 22, Prude was in the emergency department at Strong Hospital. 

At 10:51 p.m., he was discharged. 

At 3 a.m., he ran from his brother's house in a t-shirt and sweat pants. 

At 3:21 a.m., he was naked, handcuffed, and pinned to the ground. 

At 3:22 a.m., Prude stopped breathing. 

Less than 12 hours after he arrived in Rochester, Prude had no pulse and was on his way to Strong Memorial Hospital for the second time where he would die one week later after he was taken off life support. 

News10NBC is looking for opportunities where Prude could have been helped differently. That's why we have a lot of questions about what happened to him the first time he was at Strong Memorial Hospital. 

Our investigation on that is Thursday, Nov. 19 on News10NBC at 6.


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