A grand jury voted not to indict the Rochester police officers who were involved in the suffocation death of Daniel Prude, the New York Attorney General said Tuesday.
“When I was here in September, I made a commitment to the Prude Family and the Rochester community, I would do everything in my power to ensure justice was served in the death of Daniel Prude,” Attorney General Letitia James said.
“My office presented an extensive case and we saw a different outcome than the one the grand jury handed us today.”
“The criminal justice system has frustrated efforts to hold law enforcement officers accountable,” James said, adding “we have to respect the decision [of the grand jury.”
James called for police policy to be amended in New York so “officers only use lethal force as a last resort” and for a state review of the use of spit hoods.
“The criminal justice system is badly in need of reform. It was built to protect and shield officers from wrongdoing and accountability,” she said.
The 41-year-old Prude was left brain-dead after being detained during a mental-health episode March 23, and died a week later.
Prude was placed in a “spit hood” and pushed to the ground while naked.
The medical examiner ruled his death a homicide that was caused by “complications of asphyxia in the setting of physical restraint, excited delirium [and] acute phencyclidine [PCP] intoxication.”
But for months afterwards, the details of his death were unclear until the family got their hands on body-camera footage from the incident.
The videos, which was reminiscent of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, showed seven officers laughing at the naked man while he sat cuffed during the episode.
At one point, the officers forcefully pressed Prude’s face into the pavement, muffling his words.
A day after the video was made public in early September, the seven cops involved were suspended without pay.
A week later, Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren fired Police Chief La’Ron Singletary before he could resign over the department’s handling.
“It shows that Mr. Prude’s death was not taken as seriously as it should have been by those who reviewed the case throughout city government at every level,” Warren said at the time.
Reports emerged after the chief’s firing that police commanders had tried to get the city to delay releasing the footage from the deadly encounter — fearing a backlash from the public following the summer demonstrations over the death of Floyd.
The videos sparked two weeks of protests and s federal lawsuit over the alleged cover-up.
Singletary later alleged in a notice of claim the mayor had asked him to downplay her role in the fallout from Prude’s death.
“Mayor Warren asked me instead, to provide false information and to omit material information to support the Mayor’s public narrative concerning her knowledge of the events in the matter of Daniel Prude,” he added.