Grand jury declines to bring charges against officers in death of Daniel Prude

A grand jury has voted not to bring charges against the seven police officers involved in the death of Daniel Prude, New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) announced on Tuesday.

James said during a press conference that her office presented an “extensive case,” to the grand jury, and made “every attempt to demonstrate the facts. But ultimately, we have to respect the decision.”

Prude, a Black man, died on March 30, one week after he was detained after running naked throughout the streets. Video of officers pinning him down and placing a “spit hood” over his head went viral, drawing national outrage.

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Prude’s death gained attention after his family released footage of the incident in early September, accusing the city of a cover-up over his death. The incident itself occurred two months before the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis last May, which sparked months of protests against police brutality. 

A medical examiner ruled that his death was a homicide caused by “complications of asphyxia in the setting of physical restraint.”

James’s office released a 200-page report on Tuesday concluding that there was enough evidence to present the case to a grand jury, as well as recommendations for reforming use-of-force laws.  

“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,” James said in a statement accompanying the release of the report. “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.” 

Amid the fallout of Prude's death, the officers involved were suspended with pay, and Rochester, N.Y. Police Chief La’Ron Singletary retired. Documents later released by the City of Rochester showed that police attempted to withhold information about Prude’s death for months.

Matt Rich, an attorney for four of the officers, told The Hill in an interview on Thursday that he wasn’t surprised at the grand jury’s decision, but was shocked at how quickly James was able to get a judge to unseal its proceedings.

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He said, however, that the report would clear up any confusion about the case. 

“I think you know ultimately once the smoke clears the public is going to get a look at how thorough this presentation was, and I think any questions of unfairness are going to be cleared up,” Rich said. 

The Department of Justice issued a statement on Wednesday saying that it was "aware" that the grand jury declined to bring charges in the case.

"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," the statement said. 

The officers are still suspended pending the outcome of an internal investigation. 

—Updated Wednesday at 2:14 p.m.