New York Times

Daniel Prude’s Death Leads to No Charges for Police

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The police officers who placed a mesh hood on a Black man last year and pressed his head down until he lost consciousness will not be charged in his death, officials said Tuesday, after a grand jury convened to investigate the case declined to bring an indictment.

The killing of the man, Daniel Prude, in Rochester, N.Y., touched off intense protests in that city and others during a national reckoning around racism and brutality in policing. Mr. Prude’s death was one of many instances in which Black men died in police custody in recent years.

Public records showed that the Rochester Police Department sought to conceal the circumstances — captured in graphic police body camera footage — of Mr. Prude’s death. The case led to the dismissal of the city’s police chief.

“We sought a different outcome than the one the grand jury handed us today,” said New York’s attorney general, Letitia James, who convened the panel to investigate Mr. Prude’s death. Ms. James, speaking at a news conference in Rochester, expressed clear disappointment with the result, but added, “We have to respect the decision.”

Mr. Prude, 41, was visiting his brother in Rochester in March when he had an apparent psychotic episode. He ran into the street naked and was handcuffed by officers. Mr. Prude, who had told at least one passer-by that he had the coronavirus, began spitting, and the officers responded by pulling a mesh hood over his head.

When he tried to get up, the officers forced Mr. Prude facedown on the ground, one of them pushing his head to the pavement, police body camera footage showed. The police held Mr. Prude down for two minutes, and he had to be resuscitated. He died in the hospital a week later, on March 30. His death was later ruled a homicide.

Credit…Prude Family Photo

But the circumstances of Mr. Prude’s death did not become public until September, and only after lawyers for his family pushed for the release of body camera footage.

Ms. James’s office announced on Tuesday that there would be no charges for the seven officers involved: Officers Josiah Harris, Francisco Santiago, Paul Ricotta, Andrew Specksgoor, Mark Vaughn, Troy Taladay and Sgt. Michael Magri.

The killing set off protests across Rochester, a small city just south of Lake Ontario. At points, police officers in riot gear fired chemical irritants at the demonstrators, most of whom remained peaceful.

Concrete barriers formed a reinforced perimeter around Rochester’s Public Safety Building on Tuesday as word spread that an announcement about the case was imminent.

In Rochester, Mr. Prude’s killing upended the political order.

Records released in an internal review of the episode appeared to show that Rochester officials had tried for months to suppress video footage of the encounter, and misrepresented the cause of his death.

“We certainly do not want people to misinterpret the officers’ actions and conflate this incident with any recent killings of unarmed Black men by law enforcement nationally,” a deputy Rochester police chief wrote in a June 4 email to his boss, advising him not to release the footage to the Prude family’s lawyer. “That would simply be a false narrative, and could create animosity and potentially violent blowback in this community as a result.”

The police chief replied minutes later: “I totally agree.”

Dan Higgins contributed reporting from Rochester.

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bourbiza

Bourbiza Mohamed. Writer and Political Discourse Analysis.

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