Local officials, community leaders react to grand jury’s decision in Daniel Prude case

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — The seven Rochester Police officers involved in the Daniel Prude case will not face any criminal charges, New York State Attorney General Tish James announced Tuesday.

James said she felt there was sufficient evidence to present the case to a grand jury, but the grand jury decided not to indict any of the officers involved.

Community leaders and local officials weighed in on the decision.

Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren: "The announcement by the Attorney General is hard for many of us to understand. Today’s findings will not undo the damage done nor bring Mr. Prude back to his loved ones. And, we extend our fullest prayers and condolences to his children and his family. There are no words that can comfort a family who has lost their loved one in this tragic way. Our actions going forward will ensure that Daniel Prude’s death was not in vain.

As a City and a community, we must work towards changing policies and procedures to correct the inequities in the system. I am committed to focusing my energy and anger on creating the change our community so desperately seeks, and I ask that you join with me. Our recent draft proposals reimaging policing in response to Executive Order 203, and Chief Herriott-Sullivan’s revised orders and procedures, which she will announce soon, are evidence of this effort.

I ask us all to put the well-being of our community first and to act with sincerity to improve our City. If we do that with the dignity and humanity God has instilled in all of us, we will create the change that Mr. Prude’s death, and that our history, demands.

I pray that we all choose this path. I pray for the Prude family, and for his soul, on this difficult day. Let us live the words we have all spoken to create a most just and equitable Rochester for everyone. God bless you and our City.”

Rochester Police Chief Cynthia Herriott-Sullivan: "This is still an ongoing investigation. The Rochester Police Department’s (RPD) Professional Standards Section (PSS) will continue with the internal investigation. The officers will remain on leave pending the outcome of this internal investigation.

My heart goes out to the Prude family during this difficult time. I want the family and our community to know that I accepted the role of Interim Police Chief to make real, systemic change, and that is still my goal. I am proud of the progress we’re making and of RPD Officers for being open to learning alternative methods and working together towards a common goal of keeping this from happening again. Our job is to serve and protect, and we are committed to continuous improvement and partnering with community leaders and experts to make progress on reframing the Department to a guardian mindset, training and policy updates for de-escalation, duty to intervene, and mental hygiene detention practices."

Monroe County District Attorney Sandra Doorley: "I want to thank the Attorney General for bringing this difficult case to a Grand Jury. I believe wholeheartedly that the Attorney General’s Office followed the law in this matter. The outcome of the Grand Jury proceeding does not change the fact that our community is hurting and angry from not only Daniel Prude’s death last March, but generations of inequities. My continued prayers are with the family of Daniel Prude. It is my hope as District Attorney and a member of this community that we are able to move forward together in unity."

Sen. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer: "Daniel Prude should still be alive today. It is long past time for policing reform. As a start, Daniel’s Law should pass in New York, and we are working to pass the Justice In Policing Act in Congress."

Congressman Joe Morelle: “While this marks the end of the grand jury process, it’s abundantly clear that our policies and procedures are not working—if they were, Daniel Prude would still be alive today.

Now, it is up to all of us to turn our anguish into action. We must start by passing the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, by improving mental health services, and by reevaluating and reimagining police training protocols. The challenges we face are not unsolvable, and we owe it to Daniel Prude—and the countless victims like him in communities across our nation—to take decisive action to solve them.

Ultimately, we must do whatever it takes to create a more just system and prevent a tragedy like this from happening to another family ever again.”

Sen. Jeremy Cooney (D-56): "I am saddened for Daniel Prude’s family and deeply troubled by the decision of the grand jury not to indict. Time after time, our criminal justice system fails to protect Black and Brown citizens. I will continue to work to bring transformational change through the legislative process to our policing system to ensure fair and equal treatment.

Daniel Prude’s death, the recent macing of a 9-year-old girl, and many other examples call on us to finally end qualified immunity for police officers. Victims and their loved ones must be heard and be given their day in court. I am co-sponsoring the ‘Restoring Accountability and Civil Equity Act’ (S.1050) and I urge my Senate colleagues to join me to make sure we take action."

Sen. Samra Brouk (D-55): "Daniel Prude’s family and the Rochester community are hurt, anguished, and angry, and today’s grand jury announcement does little to heal or absolve the deep wounds that we are experiencing as a community. I am outraged and heartbroken by the grand jury’s decision to decline to bring charges against the officers involved in Daniel Prude’s death.

Daniel died alone and naked on a Rochester street in the middle of a freezing winter night, and no one is being held accountable for that. This is not justice. We need increased transparency and oversight on investigations involving law enforcement, and we need healing, care, and compassion for people experiencing a mental health and substance abuse crisis."

Assemblymember Jen Lunsford (D-135): “Daniel Prude’s death was a horrific tragedy that shook our community to its core and led to long overdue conversations about policing, race and mental health across our country. Today’s grand jury decision does not end the fight for reform, justice and Black Lives. It also does not change the fact that Daniel Prude should be alive today. I applaud the Attorney General’s calls to action today. We cannot meet this moment with platitudes and prayers. We must act to ensure that Daniel’s legacy will live on through the real changes to ensure that tragedies like this never happen again.”

Monroe County Legislature Minority Leader Vince Felder: “I am deeply disappointed that the grand jury chose not to indict any of these seven officers. What happened to Mr. Prude was unconscionable. That someone who was in obvious mental distress
could end up dead simply because the police who encountered him did not take appropriate action is beyond comprehension.

This incident and the failure of the grand jury to indict illuminates the need for greater police reform. Police who cause the death of innocent civilians should have to face the same criminal liability that ordinary civilians face every day. These incidents only seem to happen to black and Brown people, so the racial implications cannot be ignored. The fact that police continue to get away with this kind of behavior lets me know that there are, in fact, two different systems of justice in America.

Daniel Prude should be alive today, and he would be if not for the actions of these police officers. Even in death, there is no justice to be found for him or his family. My heart goes out to his children.

In America, we like to say that no one is above the law. I beg to differ."

Assemblymember Demond Meeks (D-137): "Again, a Black man dead after an interaction with the police. Again, a system that finds the police officers not responsible for the actions that led to his death. I’m disgusted by this predictable result.

Verdicts like these endorse police brutality, and unchecked racial and implicit bias housed within police departments. This tragic event, this dispiriting verdict, should reveal to us that the police are not qualified to respond to people experiencing a mental health crisis.

While my heart is heavy, my work toward equity and justice for my community will not stop. I will fight for the passage of Daniel’s Law. I will fight for the investment in preventive programs and initiatives that cause the hurt within our city.

I stand with the Prude family, and I will continue to fight for the justice and transparency we all deserve."

City Council President Loretta C. Scott and Vice President Willie J. Lightfoot: "Today, New York Attorney General Letitia James announced that the grand jury empaneled last fall in the investigation of Daniel Prude’s death has returned with no indictments against the members of the Rochester Police Department involved in this incident. While this decision is extremely disappointing, it is not at all surprising. We realize that for many in our community, this decision feels inadequate and unjust.

While we cannot change the decision of the grand jury, we can continue to seek justice for Daniel Prude. Tonight we call on Police Chief Cynthia Herriott-Sullivan to pursue disciplinary actions against the officers involved in his death, including the possible termination of these officers.

We must continue the efforts in our community to reform our public safety system, and ensure that we create a system that values human life and recognizes and responds appropriately to situations involving individuals in need of mental health services."

Our prayers remain with the Prude family, today and always."

New York Civil Liberties Union’s Executive Director Donna Lieberman: "The Rochester Police Department took Daniel Prude’s life while he was in crisis. He deserved services and supports, not for his life to end. The City of Rochester subsequently withheld body camera footage and the RPD subjected residents peacefully protesting Prude’s murder and calling for systemic change to abuse.

Despite these truths, the Attorney General’s grand jury opted for impunity, not accountability. This is not justice. We will not stop fighting for justice in Daniel Prude’s memory to protect others from being killed by police because they experience a mental health crisis.

Mental health crises require mental health expertise, not violence at the hands of the police. It’s time for a complete transformation of community safety, beginning with removing the RPD from mental health crisis response and putting trained mental health professionals in charge."

Rochester Police Accountability Board Chair Shani Wilson: "The PAB extends its condolences to the family of Daniel Prude and all those struggling with today’s news. Throughout our city’s history, criminal prosecutions have failed to deliver justice for Black and brown people harmed by police. This fact is why our community overwhelmingly voted to create a new system to hold the police accountable: the PAB. Every failure to deliver justice for officer wrongdoing proves that the PAB needs to have its disciplinary powers returned, its investigations unimpeded, and its work fully funded."

Bew York State Troopers PBA President Thomas H. Mungeer: “In a world of split-second decisions, many times an individual, through his or her actions, removes all other possibilities of de-escalation which results in the law enforcement officer having to use deadly physical force in order to protect the public and first responders. Why does the Attorney General feel that she has to move the goal post when faced – in her opinion – with an adverse decision? The sanctity and secrecy of the grand jury process is embedded in our laws and we hope that knee-jerk reactions won’t crack the foundation upon which our criminal justice system is based.”

Monroe County Executive Adam Bello: "My prayers are with Daniel Prude’s family and friends tonight. His tragic death has caused an enormous amount of pain throughout our community, pain that still resonates to this very day. It has left us all searching for answers on how to do better and hold ourselves accountable to addressing a system that is clearly unjust, one that was devoid of compassion for someone who was crying out for help. Mr. Prude’s death laid bare for us the systemic failures that have adversely impacted Black and Brown communities for too long.

Just as Mr. Prude’s death exposed a failure of the system to respond to the crisis he was facing, today’s decision has exposed an entire system in urgent need of change. We must all work together – through our actions, not just empty words – to reform our systems and services so these tragedies are not repeated."

Pamela Karlan, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice: “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. 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.”

Rochester Police Locust Club: "Pending the conclusion of the internal investigation, the Rochester Police Locust Club will not be making any comments regarding the announcement by NY Attorney General James on the Grand Jury decision."

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Rev. Lewis W. Stewart: "Mr. Prude unnecessarily died while in the custody of RPD, because the law enforcement officers present aided and abetted his death. They refused to recognize his humanity. In my mind, these officers are culpable in the death of Daniel Prude.

I am calling on the Mayor and the Chief of Police to fire these officers. If this was the same case involving non-police officers, the perpetrators involved would be on trial for manslaughter. It appears that there is one law for cops and another law for citizens who are subject to the full penalty of the law.

This is why there is this growing chasm of mistrust and suspicion between the community and the police. The City must urgently put into place mental health, protocols and components to ensure that what happened to Daniel Prude will never happen to anyone else again. In addition, the Grand Jury System needs to be reformed. I urge those who will demonstrate to express your outrage but to do so non-violently. The issue is systemic racism and we must purge this cancer from the Rochester Police Department as well as any cops who are white supremacists."

City Councilmember LaShay D. Harris: "This is a tragic injustice for the Prude family and the entire mental health community. I will continue to work with my colleagues in government, the community, and Mayor Lovely Warren to bring much-needed change to our community. We must come together to transform laws and policies that are archaic and embedded in structural racism. I pray for the Daniel Prude family and our city."

Rochester City School District Superintendent Lesli Myers-Small: "The safety and the social-emotional well-being of our students is a top priority. As our community processes today’s decision announced by Attorney General Letitia James regarding the Daniel Prude case, the Rochester City School District will have staff members available for any student who should need support. Our student support services team has resources available for students and families that can be accessed anytime at www.rcsdk12.org/studentsupport.

We are here to serve the students and families of our District with compassion and understanding. Our classrooms, whether in-person or virtual, serve as safe spaces for children to learn, grow, and express themselves."

ROC Freedom Riders: "Daniel Prude was a Black man who simply needed help. Instead he was murdered by the local agency we depend on to protect us. Unfortunately we are not surprised that the systems existing in America continue to work against Black people for the umpteenth time. Black people in America disproportionately have negative, life-changing interactions with cops that too often turn fatal. This is enough to simply understand why complete police reform is necessary.

Our hearts are with Joe Prude and the Prude family. Our anger must be redirected towards what is a tiring, exhausted and seems like a never-ending fight for justice and equity."

Monroe County Legislature Black and Asian Democratic Caucus: "Daniel Prude was a man in crisis. His family called for help and he was met with inhumane treatment by men hiding behind the technicalities of procedure. We must see a change in these systems that disproportionately and indiscriminately harm the very existence of black people. You cannot train humanity. Daniel Prude deserved better than what the Rochester Police Department offered him. Rochester Police officers must do better."