Feb 23, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Rochester officers filmed suffocating Daniel Prude won't face charges

Image of a man hugging someone with red hair close to his chest while wearing a face mask

Joe Prude, brother of Daniel Prude, holds his wife Valerie in front of City Hall in Rochester, New York in Sept. 2020. Photo: Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

Seven police officers suspended last year after putting a mesh hood on Daniel Prude until he lost consciousness will not face criminal charges following a grand jury vote, New York Attorney General Letitia James announced Tuesday.

The big picture: Police Chief La'Ron Singletary was fired following Prude's death in Rochester, New York, which sparked dozens of nightly protests last September in the wake of a national reckoning in response to the deaths of Black men and women during police encounters.

What they're saying: "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 in a statement.

  • "The current laws on deadly force have created a system that utterly and abjectly failed Mr. Prude and so many others before him. Serious reform is needed, not only at the Rochester Police Department, but to our criminal justice system as a whole."

Details: Prude's autopsy report characterized his death as a homicide, arising from "complications of asphyxia in the setting of physical restraint," Rochester First reported at the time. PCP was listed as a contributing factor to his death by a county medical examiner, the AP reports.

  • The officers' lawyers said they "were strictly following their training that night, employing a restraining technique known as 'segmenting,'" per AP. They claim that Prude’s reported use of PCP served as the "root cause" of his death.
  • Law enforcement was called after Prude experienced a mental health crisis, his brother told reporters at the time and James repeated on Tuesday.

What to watch: “The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of New York, the Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation are aware that a grand jury empaneled by the New York State Attorney General’s Office has concluded its investigation of the various officers of the Rochester Police Department who encountered Daniel Prude on March 23, 2020, and determined that no charges would be filed," the Department of Justice said in a statement Tuesday.

  • "We intend to review the comprehensive report issued by the New York State Attorney General, as well as any other relevant materials, and will determine whether any further federal response is warranted.”
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