Prude’s family have filed a federal complaint alleging the police department were trying to cover up the true nature of his death
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 aired nearly six months later, with protesters demanding an account for police and officials. city.
State Attorney General Letitia James, whose office has resumed prosecution and pushed a grand jury, said she was “extremely disappointed” and would meet with justice advocates’ brother Prude criminal and religious leaders in Rochester to develop a plan to fight for a fairer system.
“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 for the Rochester Police Department, but our criminal justice system as a whole.” 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 hood over her head as an officer pushes her face against the ground, while another officer rests 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 said the death was a homicide caused by “complications of asphyxiation under physical restraint” and cited PCP as a contributing factor.
Prude’s family filed a federal complaint alleging the police department were trying 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, have been 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.
Mr Singletary has said in legal documents Ms Warren told him to lie to support his claim that she only learned of Prude’s death months later and fired him for refusing to do so. A city spokesperson said her version of events confirms Ms Warren never saw the video until August.
Ms Warren announced a candidacy for a third term in January and pleaded not guilty in October to an unrelated indictment alleging that she broke campaign finance 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 halted its investigation into Prude’s death when Ms James’ office began 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.