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New York Attorney General Letitia James. Photo: Joshua Rashaad McFadden/Getty Images
New York Attorney General Letitia James. Photo: Joshua Rashaad McFadden/Getty Images

No justice for Daniel Prude as officers in his killing will not be charged for his death

The 41-year-old Black man died after being restrained by Rochester police in March 2020.

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New York’s Attorney General, Letitia James has announced that no officers will be charged for the death of Daniel Prude, a 41-year-old Black man who died after being restrained by Rochester police last March. 

James said that her office presented the “strongest possible case” to the grand jury, but the panel still decided not to indict any officers. 

"While I know that the Prude family, the Rochester community, and communities across the country will rightfully be devastated and disappointed, we have to respect this decision," James said.

According to his family members, Prude was visiting Rochester from Chicago, and was in the midst of a mental health emergency when they called police for help. Police initially reported Prude’s death as a drug overdose and it went mostly unnoticed. 

But six months later, disturbing body camera footage was released, largely in part due to pressure from Prude’s family. The footage proved not only that his death was not the result of an overdose, but that Prude was met with police brutality despite his clearly unstable mental condition. 

The video shows Prude naked on a snowy street, wearing a “spit hood” over his head. One officer was seen pressing Prude’s head into the ground with his hands, while Prude was prone and handcuffed. 

An officer is heard saying that Prude vomited, and eventually he became unconscious. 

Prude died a week later, and a medical examiner stated that his death was a homicide caused by “complications of asphyxia in the setting of physical restraint.” 

Seven officers were suspended over Prude’s death, but their lawyers argue that they were simply following their training that night, using a restraining technique known as “segmenting.” They also claimed that Prude’s use of PCP, which caused irrational behavior, was the true reason for his death. 

Prude was under the influence of PCP, which led to him experiencing symptoms of excited delirium syndrome. He was evaluated at a hospital for his odd behavior earlier that day, but wasn’t admitted. 

When Prude bolted from the house, his family called 911, hoping that the police could de-escalate the situation and bring him home safely. But as the video shows, Prude did not find any semblance of safety or assistance. 

Elliot Shields, Prude’s family lawyer, feels that the healthcare and law enforcement systems failed him repeatedly. 

“It failed him on March 22 when he was released from the hospital. It failed him again on the night of March 23 when the police used deadly force against him. And it failed him again today,” Shields said on the day of the grand jury’s decision. 

James called for the state to review the techniques that officers used against Prude, like “segmenting,” and the use of the “spit hood.” James said that although there’s no evidence to suggest that the spit hood contributed to Prude’s death, it still “added to his stress and agitation.”

James worked with an expert on police-practices who concluded that the use of “segmenting” was reasonable, but it got dangerously out of hand. 

The expert said that keeping Prude on his stomach for three minutes, including a minute after he vomited, was “unnecessary, unreasonable and against accepted police practice.” 

James also called for law enforcement agencies to be trained in de-escalation strategies as well as training in how to recognize symptoms of excited delirium syndrome. 

Lovely Warren, the mayor of Rochester, fired police chief La’Ron Singletary over his handling of the Prude case. Warren called the grand jury decision “hard for many of us to understand.” 

“There are no words that can comfort a family who has lost their loved one in this tragic way,” she said. “Our actions going forward will ensure that Daniel Prude’s death was not in vain.”

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