ROCHESTER, NY – A grand jury has chosen not to indict the Rochester police officers whose detention of Daniel Prude may have caused his death, the state attorney general said on Tuesday.
“I know the Prude family, the community of Rochester and communities across the country will be rightly disappointed with this outcome,” New York Attorney General Letitia James said in announcing the grand jury decision. “My office presented a complete dossier and we looked for a different result than the one the grand jury gave us today.”
She added: “The criminal justice system has thwarted efforts to hold law enforcement officials accountable for the wrongful murder of unarmed African Americans. What ties these cases together is a tragic loss of life in circumstances where death could have been avoided.
James also promised that a “full report” would be released to the media. The report would include a “minute-by-minute account of the events of March 22 and 23, 2020”.
A grand jury was appointed on September 5 to decide whether there were grounds for criminal prosecution against one of the officers involved in the March incident in which Prude, a black man, died after three officers from Rochester retained it.
James, who is charged with investigating cases in which unarmed civilians die at the hands of police, revealed the grand jury’s findings at a press conference at Aenon Missionary Baptist Church.
Last year, after the medical examiner’s office declared Prude’s death a homicide, the district attorney’s office referred the case to the attorney general for possible prosecution.
Prude lost oxygen in his brain as it was pinned to the ground by police while they waited for medical transport.
Police attorneys argued that the restraint used on Prude, with one officer holding her head to the ground and another pinning her lower body, followed the techniques they had been taught. It is possible that the officers testified before the grand jury.
Restraint critics and local activists say the police did not need to forcefully restrain Prude; he was naked and handcuffed behind his back.
Prude’s death sparked nights of protest in Rochester, with activists saying the police should not have been the first responders to what was a mental health episode.
On March 23, police received a call from a man acting erratically in southwest Rochester breaking windows. Police found Prude, who had been taken to Strong Memorial Hospital hours earlier but not admitted, roaming the streets naked.
The encounter with the police led to his restraint, and he stopped breathing and lost oxygen in his brain. He was resurrected, but died a week later.
From September onwards:Black man pinned to the ground by NYPD died two months before George Floyd
Stanley Martin, one of the Free the People ROC activists who led protests last year, said Monday before James’ announcement that “I was initially hoping that maybe a grand jury procedure would lead to some kind of justice for the Prude family. “
“I’m preparing more for what feels like a healing for the (Prude) family if she’s really disappointed,” she said. She said the community needs to keep pushing for better mental health services and less police presence, especially with mental health episodes like Prude’s.
Attorney General James announced in September, after news of Prude’s death became public, that she would constitute a grand jury. This process had logistical complications due to COVID-19. The downtown courthouse was reconfigured so grand juries had room for social distancing, and regional administrative judge, State Supreme Court Judge Craig Doran, had to find space for an additional grand jury.
Later in the fall of last year, the grand jury met, usually only once a week. The grand jury’s term expired in January, but an extension was granted.
Beyond the grand jury investigation, the fallout from Daniel Prude’s death was considerable.
Death of Daniel Prude:Spit hoods scrutinized after the death of Daniel Prude. Why are they used by the police?
Mayor Lovely Warren has fired Police Chief La’Ron Singletary and the management of the police department has been reshuffled.
For weeks, the city’s streets were the scene of mass protests, which included cases of destruction of property, and the city council opened an investigation into the mayor’s handling of the homicide.
Warren maintained that she remained in the dark about the details of the death for months, while others wondered what she knew and when.
Meanwhile, the city has redoubled its efforts to improve its mental health response to emergency calls involving people in difficulty.
Follow Gary Craig on Twitter: @ gcraig1