Police officers shown in body camera video holding Daniel Prude naked and handcuffed on a city street last winter until he stopped breathing will not face criminal prosecution, according to a ruling from the grand jury announced Tuesday.
The death of the 41-year-old black man last March sparked nightly protests in Rochester, New York, after the video was released nearly six months later, with protesters demanding an account for police and officials. city.
State Attorney General Letitia James, whose office has taken over the prosecution and formed a grand jury, said “the criminal justice system is in dire need of reform.”
“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,” James said in a prepared statement. “Serious reform is needed, not only in the Rochester Police Department, but across our criminal justice system.”
Lawyers for the seven police officers suspended for Prude’s death said the police strictly followed their training that night, using a restraint technique known as “segmentation.” They claimed that Prude’s use of PCP, which caused irrational behavior, was “the root cause” of his death.
Video released on September 4 shows Prude handcuffed and naked with a balaclava over her head as an officer pushes her face against the ground, while another officer leans one knee against her back. Officers held him down for about two minutes until he stopped breathing. It was removed from the respiratory system a week later.
The county medical examiner cited the death as a homicide caused by “complications of asphyxiation as part of the physical restraint” and cited PCP as a contributing factor.
Prude’s family have filed a federal complaint alleging that the police department sought to cover up the true nature of his death.
Officers Troy Taladay, Paul Ricotta, Francisco Santiago, Andrew Specksgoor, Josiah Harris and Mark Vaughn, as well as Sgt. Michael Magri, were suspended after Prude’s death became public knowledge.
Democratic Mayor Lovely Warren sacked Police Chief La’Ron Singletary shortly after the video was released, while rejecting calls from protesters that she was resigning. Singletary has said in legal documents that Warren told her to lie to support her claim that she only learned of Prude’s death months later, and fired him for her refusal to do so. A city spokesperson said his version of events confirms Warren never saw the video until August.
Warren announced a candidacy for a third term in January and pleaded not guilty in October to an unrelated indictment alleging she broke campaign fundraising rules and committed fraud. The city’s public integrity office found no ethical loopholes on the part of the mayor in a close examination of Prude’s death.
The city ended its investigation into Prude’s death when James’ office opened its own investigation in April. Under New York law, deaths of unarmed people in custody are typically referred to the attorney general’s office, rather than handled by local officials.
Calling all HuffPost superfans!
Sign up to become a founding member and help shape the next chapter of HuffPost