ROCHESTER, NY — There will be no criminal charges against the Rochester officers who restrained Daniel Prude, a Black man, until he stopped breathing, according to a grand jury decision announced Tuesday by New York Attorney General Letitia James.
James empaneled a grand jury as part of her investigation into the March 2020 death of Prude, 41. He died of asphyxiation after he ran naked through the streets of Rochester and police put a hood over his head and pinned him to the street.
“We sought a different outcome than the one the grand jury handed us today,” James said, noting she was disappointed and knew Prude’s family would also be disappointed. “The criminal justice system is badly in need of reform. The system was built to shield and protect officers.”
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James’ office released a comprehensive report on the death of Prude, who was in the city to visit family. The father of five died after he was taken off life support several days after his encounter with police.
Tashyra Prude described her dad as a protector.
“He would do anything for his family, anything for his kids,” she said. “He’s the type of person that if you’re going through something, you go to him and he’s the one who will give you words of encouragement.”
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Officers Troy Taladay, Paul Ricotta, Francisco Santiago, Andrew Specksgoor, Josiah Harris and Mark Vaughn, along with Sgt. Michael Magri, were suspended after Prude’s death became public.
Lawyers for the seven police officers suspended over Prude’s death have said the officers were strictly following their training that night, employing a restraining technique known as “segmenting.” They claimed Prude’s use of PCP, which caused irrational behavior, was “the root cause” of his death.
The case received little attention until Prude’s family in September released video of the encounter with police.
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The city halted its investigation into Prude’s death when James’ office began its own investigation in April. Under New York law, deaths of unarmed people in police custody are typically turned over to the attorney general’s office, rather than handled by local officials.
Rochester Mayor Lovely Ann Warren previously said it was clear from the video that Prude needed help.
“Our response to him was wrong and we need to change how we deal with these situations going forward,” she said.
James shared several recommendations for the Rochester Police Department.
- Police officers, dispatchers and emergency medical service personnel should be trained to recognize the symptoms of excited delirium syndrome and to respond to it as a serious medical emergency.
- Models for responding to mental health calls should be evaluated
- There should be mandated de-escalation training for officers
- Rochester should have a body camera release policy for critical incidents
- Police should look at alternatives to spit socks, which is a name used for the type of hood put onto Prude