Police officers who put a hood over the head of a mentally distraught Black man, then pressed his body against the pavement until he stopped breathing will not face criminal charges after a grand jury declined to indict them, New York’s attorney general announced Tuesday.
Daniel Prude, 41, died last March, several days after his encounter with police in Rochester, New York. Police initially described his death as a drug overdose. It went mostly unnoticed. But nightly protests erupted after body camera video was released nearly six months later following pressure from Prude’s family.
Attorney General Letitia James, whose office took over the investigation, said her office had “presented the strongest case possible” to the grand jury, but couldn’t persuade it that the officers had committed a crime.
“I know that the Prude family, the Rochester community and communities across the country will rightfully be disappointed by this outcome,” said James, who traveled to Rochester to announce the grand jury’s decision at a church near where Prude was fatally injured.
She said she was bound to respect the grand jury’s decision, but she also condemned a system that she said had “frustrated efforts to hold law enforcement officers accountable for the unjustified killing of African Americans.”
“What binds these cases is a tragic loss of life in circumstances in which the death could have been avoided,” said James, who, like the mayor of Rochester and the city’s current and former police chiefs, is Black.
“One recognizes the influences of race, from the slave codes to Jim Crow, to lynching, to the war on crime, to the overincarceration of people of color: Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd. And now Daniel Prude,” she stated.
Lawyers for the seven police officers suspended over Prude’s death have stated the officers have been strictly following their coaching that evening, using a restraining approach generally known as “segmenting.” They claimed Prude’s use of PCP, which brought on irrational habits, was “the root cause” of his death.
Calls have been made to the officers’ attorneys. Matthew Rich, who represents 4 officers, stated “we’re still taking it in” and that the attorneys would converse to the press later.
Hundreds of protesters gathered Tuesday night on the road the place Prude was detained.
The March 23 video of Prude’s deadly encounter with officers was initially withheld by police in half due to considerations it will inflame avenue demonstrations occurring nationwide over George Floyd’s death.
Ultimately launched Sept. 4, it confirmed officers putting a mesh bag over Prude’s head to cease him from spitting after they detained him for working bare by the streets. Prude had been evaluated at a hospital for odd habits a day earlier, however he wasn’t admitted. His household known as police as a result of they have been involved about Prude’s security after he bolted from the home.
One officer pushed Prude’s face against the bottom, whereas one other officer pressed a knee to his again. The officers held him down for about two minutes till he fell unconscious. He was taken off life help every week later.
“The system failed Daniel Prude again,” Prude household lawyer Elliot Shields stated of the grand jury’s choice. ”It failed him on March 22 when he was launched from the hospital. It failed him on the evening of March 23 when the police used lethal drive against him. And it failed him once more at present.”
Shields stated Prude’s brother, Joe Prude, was “heartbroken.”
Officers Troy Taladay, Paul Ricotta, Francisco Santiago, Andrew Specksgoor, Josiah Harris and Mark Vaughn, together with Sgt. Michael Magri, have been suspended after Prude’s death turned public. The officers will stay on go away pending the result of an inner investigation, in response to Rochester police chief Cynthia Herriott-Sullivan.
The Rochester police union stated in a press release it will not instantly remark.
The grand jury choice isn’t more likely to finish scrutiny of the Rochester Police Department, which has been closely criticized over the previous 12 months over quite a few incidents involving allegations of extreme drive.
James, a Democrat, stated that in addition to assembly with Prude’s brother, she needed to talk with a 9-year-old lady who was lately pepper sprayed by metropolis police officers responding to a household dispute.
The division has additionally been criticized for tough remedy of protesters final summer time.
The U.S. Justice Department deliberate to evaluation the legal professional common’s findings, in response to a joint assertion from its Civil Rights Division, the U.S. legal professional in western New York and the FBI.
“I don’t think it’s over,” stated Mike Johnson, a Rochester activist who joined the protest of the grand jury choice Tuesday night. “I don’t think this grand jury decision is the last say in seeking justice for this issue.”
“This is just another slap in the face,” stated Johnson, noting that Tuesday was the anniversary of the death of Ahmaud Arbery, a Black man who was chased and shot by armed males in Brunswick, Georgia, one 12 months in the past.
James stated that for the sake of public transparency, she had requested a choose to unseal some information associated to the grand jury continuing.
She additionally issued a report recommending, amongst different issues, that officers be educated to acknowledge the signs of excited delirium syndrome, which might make individuals susceptible to cardiac arrest. The medical expert and the legal professional common’s skilled each concluded that Prude was in a state of excited delirium due to his drug use.
The legal professional common additionally known as for communities to reduce or eradicate police responses to psychological well being calls and to search out alternate options to the kind of “spit sock” officers positioned over Prude’s head. She stated the mesh hood clearly added to Prude’s stress and agitation.
A police-practices skilled employed by the legal professional common discovered among the officers’ actions, together with the “segmenting” tactic, have been cheap — however the skilled stated preserving Prude on his abdomen for 3 minutes, together with practically a minute after he’d apparently vomited, “was unnecessary, unreasonable, and against accepted police practice,” James’ workplace stated in a report.
The county medical expert listed the way of death as murder brought on by “complications of asphyxia in the setting of physical restraint” and cited PCP as a contributing issue.
Rochester’s mayor, Lovely Warren, who fired police chief La’Ron Singletary over his dealing with of the Prude case, known as the grand jury choice “hard for many of us to understand.”
“There are no words that can comfort a family who has lost their loved one in this tragic way,” she stated. “Our actions going forward will ensure that Daniel Prude’s death was not in vain.”
Some activists stated that they by no means anticipated the officers to face charges.
“Historically, we can see when Black and brown people are killed across this nation, most times there is no indictment. However, it isn’t any less offensive, any less hurtful, any less painful,” stated Ashley Gantt of Rochester, as she headed to protest the choice. “I’m disgusted.”