No charges will be brought in the death of New York man Daniel Prude, who was seen in camera footage of the police body being pinned to the ground with a spit bag over his head.
New York Attorney General Letitia James announced Tuesday that a grand jury voted not to charge any of the Rochester police officers involved in the incident.
Prude, 41, was immobilized by officers in March 2020 during a mental health emergency. His death, from complications of suffocation after being removed from life support, was listed as a homicide.
“Daniel Prude was going through a mental health crisis and what he needed was compassion, care and help from trained professionals,” James said in a statement. “Tragically, he didn’t get any of those things.”
Body camera footage, released by Prude’s family in September, showed Prude appeared to be unconscious as he was pinned to the ground.
The delay in releasing the video resulted in James’s office implementing a new policy in which body camera images will now be released earlier in the investigative process.
James said Tuesday that current deadly force laws “have created a system that totally and abjectly failed Prude and so many others before him,” adding that serious reform is needed in the “criminal justice system as a whole “.
“While I know that the Prude family, the Rochester community and communities across the country will be rightly devastated and disappointed, we have to respect this decision,” said James.
Following the announcement, hundreds of protesters gathered Tuesday night at the location where Prude met police last year, according to ABC Rochester affiliate WHAM-TV. They marched while shouting: “Without justice, there is no peace.”
In the midst of the protest, the Rochester Police Department called for anyone “who wishes to protest peacefully to refrain from participating in or engaging with anyone who acts or commits violence.”
Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren said in a statement that the decision is “difficult for many of us to understand.”
“Today’s findings will not repair the damage caused or return Mr. Prude to his loved ones. And we extend our sincerest prayers and condolences to his children and his family,” Warren said. “There are no words that can comfort a family that has lost a loved one in this tragic way. Our actions in the future will ensure that Daniel Prude’s death was not in vain.”
Lovely echoed James’s insistence that policies and procedures must change to “correct inequalities in the system.”
James’ office has released a full report with detailed descriptions of the events that allegedly occurred on March 22 and 23 “to provide maximum transparency to the case,” according to a statement.
More responses will also be received on what happened behind closed doors with the grand jury, as James announced Tuesday night that a judge granted a motion to release the proceedings.
“This is a critical step in effecting the change that is so desperately needed,” he said. said on Twitter.
His office will release the process “as soon as the judge authorizes it,” he said.
Attorneys Ben Crump and Antonio Romanucci, who represent Crude’s family, said in a joint statement that they are “deeply disappointed” that the officers involved will not face criminal charges.
“This tragedy could have been avoided if the officers had been properly trained, but also used basic human decency and common sense to treat Mr. Prude compassionately and give him the medical attention he deserved,” the attorneys said. “We will continue to advocate for justice in the civil courts, as we seek federal police reform so that these continuing tragedies against black citizens end once and for all.”
Former Rochester Police Chief La’Ron Singletary was fired in September amid criticism for his handling of Prude’s death. Seven officers involved in the incident were also suspended that month and will remain on leave pending an internal investigation, Acting Rochester Police Chief Cynthia Herriott-Sullivan and the Rochester Police Locust Club, the police union, said in separate statements. from the Department.
Herriott-Sullivan said she has “a deep and unwavering respect for our judicial system and due process for all people,” but that the department will continue to update its policies and training, from downsizing, duty to intervene, and detention practices. of mental hygiene.
“I want the family and our community to know that I accepted the role of interim police chief to bring about real systemic change, and that remains my goal,” Herriott-Sullivan said. “I am proud of the progress we are making and the RPD officers for being open to learning alternative methods and working together towards a common goal of preventing this from happening again.”
Attorneys representing several of the suspended officers said they were following their mandatory training.
“We have said from the beginning that our clients did nothing wrong,” James Nobles, who represents one of the officers, told WHAM on Tuesday. “They followed their procedure, they called their training, they did what they were asked. And you know, 23 citizens of this community listened to weeks of evidence and dozens of witnesses and came to the same conclusion.
“It’s easy to sit back and say they should have been nicer and they should have said this, they should have done that,” Matt Rich, who represents four of the officers, told the station. “What they did was that, faced with a crisis in a high stress situation, they backed out of their training, which was what their superiors ordered them to do.”