Police officers who put a hood over the head of a mentally distraught Black man, then pressed his body against the pavement until he stopped breathing will not face criminal charges after a grand jury declined to indict them, New York's attorney general announced Tuesday.
Daniel Prude, 41, died last March, several days after his encounter with police in Rochester, New York. Police initially described his death as a drug overdose. It went mostly unnoticed. But nightly protests erupted after body camera video was released nearly six months later following pressure from Prude's family.
Attorney General Letitia James, whose office took over the investigation, said her office had “presented the strongest case possible” to the grand jury, but couldn’t persuade it that the officers had committed a crime.
“I know that the Prude family, the Rochester community and communities across the country will rightfully be disappointed by this outcome,” said James, who traveled to Rochester to announce the grand jury’s decision at a church near where Prude was fatally injured.
She said she was bound to respect the grand jury’s decision, but she also condemned a system that she said had “frustrated efforts to hold law enforcement officers accountable for the unjustified killing of African Americans."
“What binds these cases is a tragic loss of life in circumstances in which the death could have been avoided,” said James, who, like the mayor of Rochester and the city’s current and former police chiefs, is Black.
“One recognizes the influences of race, from the slave codes to Jim Crow, to lynching, to the war on crime, to the overincarceration of people of color: Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd. And now Daniel Prude,” she said.
Lawyers for the seven police officers suspended over Prude’s death have said the officers were strictly following their training that night, employing a restraining technique known as “segmenting.” They claimed Prude’s use of PCP, which caused irrational behavior, was “the root cause” of his death.