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 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.
“What this report describes is a man in the throes of a mental health crisis,” James said. “Who was literally screaming for help the only way he knew how. His brother, Joe, he also called for help. He did not call the police to deal with a crisis in the forces. order.He requested professional emergency medical care to deal with a mental health crisis.
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James said she plans to meet Prude’s brother later on Tuesday. She also said she planned to call for reforms to laws regarding the use of force by police.
A grand jury was appointed on September 5 to decide whether there were grounds for criminal prosecution in the incident in which Prude died after three officers from Rochester detained him.
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.
James did not say what charges she recommended to the grand jury, citing rules surrounding procedural secrecy. At Tuesday’s press conference, James called for reform.
“The rules of grand jury secrecy should be relaxed,” James said. “The public deserves to know what happened behind closed doors. Current secrecy laws are simply outdated. Anachronistic.”
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.
Local activists and restraint critics say the officers did not need to hold Prude down forcefully; 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.
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Beyond the grand jury investigation, the fallout over Prude’s death was far-reaching.
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.
“I am disappointed,” James said. “Extremely disappointed. Unfortunately, historically, if one analyzes the intersection of the criminal justice system and race, one recognizes the influence of race. From slave codes, to lynching, to Jim Crow, to the war on crime, the overincarceration of people of color … Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and now Daniel Prude. “
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.
“The criminal justice system is in dire need of reform,” James said Tuesday. “The system was designed to protect and protect officers from wrongdoing and liability. The system too often allows officers to use lethal force unnecessarily and inconsequentially. It is a system that, at its core, is broken. ”
Follow Gary Craig on Twitter: @ gcraig1