Feb. 24 (UPI) — A New York grand jury chose not to indict any Rochester police officers involved in the arrest of a man that resulted in his death by asphyxiation, state Attorney General Letitia James announced Tuesday.
Speaking from the Aenon Missionary Baptist Church, she said the grand jury determined none of the seven officers present during the March 23 arrest of Daniel Prude, 41, committed any crimes.
James’ office believed there was “sufficient evidence” to warrant the grand jury investigation because “the current laws on deadly force have created a system that utterly and abjectly failed Prude,” a statement said.
“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.
“Serious reform is needed, not only at the Rochester Police Department, but to our criminal justice system as a whole. I will be pursuing a multifaceted approach to address the very issues that have prevented us from holding officers accountable when they improperly use deadly force. I am committed to effecting the change that is so desperately needed, and I will be unshakeable in my efforts to see it through.”
Daniel Prude’s arrest came after his brother, Joe Prude, called police to alert them about his mental health crisis.
Officers discovered Daniel Prude walking down the street without any clothes on. They alleged he broke windows at a business on the same street.
Witnesses described his actions as erratic before officers’ arrival.
Video footage shows Daniel Prude complied with officers when they told him to lie on the ground and put his hands behind his back to be handcuffed.
After that, though, he appears to become agitated and attempts to stand up, particularly after they put what’s known as a “spit sock” on his head. Police said they used the covering because he repeatedly spat at them and told them he had coronavirus.
Officers then restrained him by leaning on his head, back and feet as he was face-down on street.
One officer can be seen in the video leaning on Daniel Prude’s head for more than 2 minutes, during which time the latter stopped moving and speaking.
He was hospitalized after he stopped breathing and died one week later of complications from “asphyxia in the setting of physical restraint,” according to an autopsy report.
The Monroe County Medical examiner ruled the death a homicide and said Daniel Prude’s “excited delirium” and ingestion of low levels of PCP played a factor.
Daniel Prude’s death sparked city-wide protests against alleged racial bias and excessive use of force in the RPD.
James issued a number of recommendations to the RPD to avoid the same outcome in future arrests, including:
- Training for law enforcement officers, dispatchers and emergency medical service personnel in recognizing and responding to excited delirium syndrome.
- Reducing police responses to mental health calls when possible and passing “Daniel’s Law” to assist in that effort.
- Instituting mandatory de-escalation training for all police officers in the state.
- Implementing a policy for releasing body-worn camera footage.
- Considering spit sock alternatives.