Rochester Police officers involved in Daniel Prude case will not face criminal charges
ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — New York State Attorney General Tish James announced Tuesday the seven Rochester Police officers involved in the Daniel Prude case will not face any criminal charges.
James made the announcement at Aenon Missionary Baptist Church in Rochester.
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James said she felt there was sufficient evidence to present the case to a grand jury, but the grand jury decided not to indict. The attorney general released a comprehensive report with detailed descriptions of the events of March 22 and 23, 2020, legal analysis, all the evidence, findings, and recommendations that the office collected during the investigation outside of the grand jury process.
“Daniel Prude was in the throes of a mental health crisis and what he needed was compassion, care, and help from trained professionals," James said. "Tragically, he received none of those things. We concluded that there was sufficient evidence surrounding Mr. Prude’s death to warrant presenting the case to a grand jury, and we presented the most comprehensive case possible. 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."
BREAKING: The @RochesterNYPD police officers involved in the #DanielPrude case will NOT face any criminal charges. @TishJames says she felt there was sufficient evidence to present case to a grand jury but the grand jury decided not to indict. @news10nbc pic.twitter.com/QJgSeIanFh— Jennifer Lewke (@WHEC_JLewke) February 23, 2021
Body camera video released from the scene on Jefferson Avenue shows Prude naked in the street in March 2020. It shows some erratic behavior, but it shows he followed police commands. When he tried to sit up while handcuffed, the video shows police put him back down on the ground and pinned him.
The video also shows one officer in a push-up stance with his hands on Prude’s head and neck. Less than 10 minutes after he was handcuffed, Prude stopped breathing. He had no pulse and was getting CPR when he was put in an ambulance. Prude died a week later after he was taken off life support.
The Monroe County medical examiner listed the manner of death as homicide caused by “complications of asphyxia in the setting of physical restraint.” Excited delirium and acute intoxication by phencyclidine, or PCP, were contributing factors, the report said.
Prude’s death didn’t become public knowledge until early September.
In September, Mayor Lovely Warren suspended the seven officers for their involvement in Prude’s death — Sgt. Michael Magri and officers Josiah Harris, Paul Ricotta, Francisco Santiago, Andrew Specksgoor, Troy Taladay, and Mark Vaughn. The officers remain suspended with pay pending the outcome of an internal investigation, Rochester Police Chief Cynthia Herriott-Sullivan said.
Lawyers of the officers involved say Prude died from the effects of the drug PCP, not the officers’ actions. The officers’ lawyers told News10NBC they did what they were trained to do. In September, the lawyers released the New York state training video that, they say, shows how the officers were taught to restrain someone on the ground.
In December, the City of Rochester’s Office of Public Integrity released its report, saying it found "no evidence" that any city employee violated any "policies or ethical standards" in Prude’s death.
James said "serious concerns" about the actions of the Rochester Police Department remain. She issued a number of recommendations to the RPD to address these concerns, including its handling of mental health crises.
"Serious reform is needed, not only at the Rochester Police Department but to our criminal justice system as a whole," James said. "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."
The attorney general outlined these five recommendations Tuesday.
- Law enforcement officers, emergency communications providers (dispatchers), and emergency medical service personnel must be trained to recognize the symptoms of excited delirium syndrome and to respond to it as a serious medical emergency.
- All communities should assess models for responding to crisis situations that minimize or eliminate police responses to mental health calls whenever possible; passing “Daniel’s Law” would greatly aid in this endeavor.
- New York should mandate de-escalation training for all police officers, and police agencies should reflect a commitment to de-escalation in their use of force policies.
- The City of Rochester should adopt a body-worn camera release policy regarding critical incidents.
- Law enforcement agencies should explore the use of spit sock alternatives.
James met with Daniel Prude’s family privately after she made the announcement. She said she also plans to meet with community leaders and criminal justice reform advocates while she’s here in Rochester.
Watch the video in the player below to see James’s full announcement:
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Watch the video in the player below to hear from legal expert Peter Pullano:
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Former Rochester mayor Cedric Alexander also weighed in. You can watch the full interview below:
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Learn more about the death of Daniel Prude here.
News10NBC will have continuing team coverage on-air and online.