The New York Attorney General has announced that no officer will be charged following an inquest into the death ofa 41-year-old black man who died after being held by Rochester police last year.
New York Attorney General Letitia James said Tuesday his office presented the “strongest possible case” to a grand jury, but the grand jury decided not to indict any officer in the case. James’ office is required to investigate deaths of unarmed civilians by police under state law.
“While I know the Prude family, the community of Rochester, and communities across the country will rightly be devastated and disappointed, we must respect this decision,” said James.
Family members said Prude, who was visiting Rochester from Chicago, was in the midst of a mental health crisis and was acting erratically when they called the police for help in March 2020.
A disturbing video that surfaced months later showed Prude naked on a snowy street, wearing a “balaclava” over her head as she met police. An officer was seen pressing the man’s head against the ground with his hands as Prude was lying down and handcuffed. We hear an officer say that Prude has vomited and the man ends up not responding.
Prude died a week later, and a medical examiner ruled that his death was caused by “complications of suffocation from physical restraint.”
The video drew protests in Rochester and across the country, as well as questions about the handling of the investigation by city officials. Seven Rochester police officers have been suspended and the town’s police chiefUnion officials insisted that the police take their training.
James said she was unable to give details of the evidence she presented to the grand jury due to grand jury secrecy rules. She called for a reform of the grand jury to allow more transparency, saying the public deserves to know what happened “behind closed doors.” She said she expected to meet Prude’s family after today’s announcement.
James said the state should review hoods and whether they are appropriate in mental health response cases. She said that while there is no evidence that the spit hood in Prude’s case contributed to her death, she said it “clearly added to her stress and agitation.” She also called on state law enforcement to implement de-escalation training for officers.
“Daniel Prude was in the throes of a mental health crisis and what he needed was compassion, care and help from trained professionals,” James said. “Tragically, he didn’t receive any of these things.”
James said his office would issue a full report on Prude’s death, including a minute-by-minute account of the police encounter.
“What this report portrayed in the man with a mental health crisis, who was literally screaming for help the only way he knew,” James said.
James said “serious concerns” remained about the actions of the police, and she recommended reform of the Rochester Police Department on how it responds to people’s mental health issues.
She said Prude suffered from “excited delirium,” a condition often associated with drug ingestion that can cause erratic behavior and increased risk of death, but officers were unsure how to handle the medical emergency. She called on the state legislature to pass police reforms to prevent the deaths of unarmed civilians, especially those suffering from delirium.
“It is imperative that all police officers, emergency dispatch service providers and emergency medical technicians be trained to recognize the symptoms and trained to respond to this serious medical emergency,” said James.
In a statement released to CBS Rochester WROC, Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren said the announcement was “difficult for many of us to understand.”
“There is no word that can bring comfort to a family who lost their loved one in this tragic way,” said Warren. “Our actions in the future will ensure that the death of Daniel Prude was not in vain.”
A community rally was scheduled for Tuesday evening at the site of Prude’s meeting with the police.