Police officers who put a mesh hood on a black man last year and bowed his head until he lost consciousness will not be charged with his death, officials said Tuesday after a large jury called to investigate the case rejected the charge.
The assassination of the man, Daniel Prude, in Rochester, New York, has sparked fierce protests in this city and others in a national reckoning of the brutality of racism and police violence. Mr. Prude’s death was one of many cases where black men died in police custody in recent years.
Public records showed that the Rochester Police Department was trying to cover up the circumstances of Mr. Prude’s death – which were recorded by police graphics camera recordings. The case led to the dismissal of the city’s chief of police.
“We were striving for a different outcome than what the Grand Jury gave us today,” said New York Attorney General Letitia James, who convened the panel to investigate Mr. Prude’s death.
Ms James expressed her clear disappointment at the outcome at a press conference at Aenon Missionary Baptist Church in Rochester.
“The criminal justice system is unwilling to hold law enforcement accountable for the unjustified murder of unarmed African Americans,” Ms. James said. “What connects these cases is the tragic loss of life in circumstances where death could be avoided.”
Mr. Prude, 41, visited his brother in Rochester in March when he had an obvious psychotic episode. He ran naked into the street and was handcuffed by officers. Mr. Prude, who had told at least one passer-by that he had the coronavirus, began to spit, and officers pulled a mesh hood over his head in response.
As he tried to stand up, officers forced Mr. Prude face down on the ground, one of them shaking his head on the sidewalk — it appeared in the police body’s camera footage. Police lowered Mr. Prude for two minutes, who had to be revived. He died at the hospital on March 30, a week later. His death was later condemned to homicide.
But the circumstances of Mr Prude’s death only became public in September, and only after his family’s lawyers called for the release of body camera footage.
“These events have called into question public confidence in our criminal justice system, and history has unfortunately been repeated again in the death of Daniel Prude,” Ms. James said.
But his announcement confirmed that none of the seven officers involved will be charged: Josiah Harris, Francisco Santiago, Paul Ricotta, Andrew Specksgoor, Mark Vaughn, Troy Taladay and Sgt. Michael Magri.
The murder sparked protests throughout Rochester, a small town south of Lake Ontario. Police in riot gear fired chemical irritants at protesters, most of whom remained peaceful.
Concrete railings formed a fortified district around the Rochester Public Safety Building on Tuesday when word spread that the incident was due to be announced soon.
Ms. James said she planned to meet with the Prude family immediately after the press conference, as well as the family of a 9-year-old black girl who was handcuffed and peppered by Rochester police in the back of a police car. on January 29, officers called to his home due to a home dispute.
Members of the Rochester City Council also sent a reminder to the city’s interim police chief on Tuesday afternoon, calling for an immediate ban on the use of chemicals during protests and the establishment of clear “rules of engagement”.
The assassination of Mr. Prude upset the Rochester political order.
An internal review of the episode revealed from records that city officials had been trying for months to suppress video footage of the meeting and falsely reported the cause of his death.
“Of course, we don’t want people to misinterpret officers’ actions and confuse this case with the recent violent murder of unarmed black men by national law enforcement,” a deputy chief of police wrote in an email to his boss on June 4 advising not to let go. hiring a lawyer for the Prude family. “It would simply be a false narrative, and as a result, it could provoke hostility and a potentially violent blow to this community.”
Minutes later, the police chief replied, “I totally agree.”
For months, Mr. Prude’s death has been reported as a fatal drug overdose in police reports. At the time of his autopsy, Mr. Prude had PCP, also known as angel powder, in his system. But the cause of Mr. Prude’s death was asphyxia.
Mayor Lovely Warren, who had already suspended seven officers, fired the police chief shortly after the revelations and suspended several employees of the city.
This month, Ms. Warren filed a draft proposal for a comprehensive change in police forces after an executive order was demanded from communities across the state to consider rethinking policing.
Ms. James’s investigation was made possible by a 2015 enforcement order that empowered the attorney general to investigate and prosecute police officers if an unarmed civilian was killed. Governor Andrew M. Cuomo signed the order after the Grand Jury rejected the indictment of New York City police, who kept EOK Garner, a black man from Staten Island, in a throttle until his death.
Ms James said her office will pursue a number of law enforcement reforms in the field of policing, aimed in part at removing obstacles to “prosecuting officers who use unreasonable lethal force”, including raising standards when officers find the use of force acceptable.
“The cornerstone of this effort is to change the violent law from a subjective, simple necessity to an absolute final solution,” Ms. James said. “Our goal is to preserve life.”
Dan Higgins contributed to Rochester ‘s accounts, and Troy Closson From New York.