A grand jury voted not to indict any Rochester Police officers involved in the March 2020 death of Daniel Prude, who died after being restrained with a spit hood and pinned to the ground, New York Attorney General Letitia James announced Tuesday.
“Daniel Prude was in the throes of a mental health crisis and what he needed was compassion, care, and help from trained professionals. Tragically, he received none of those things,” James said in a statement. “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.
The jury returned a no bill, indicating they believed there wasn’t enough evidence to charge the seven officers in Prude’s death.
“My office presented an extensive case, and had hoped for a different outcome,” James said.
Acknowledging that Prude’s family and members of the community would “rightfully be devastated” James added, “we have to respect this decision.”
Prude, 41, died one week after a March 23, 2020 encounter with Rochester police that left him brain-dead and hospitalized.
Prude’s brother, Joe Prude called the police after Daniel, who had been acting strangely, ran out of the back door of the house at around 3 a.m. and into the snowy night. Prude had recently been hospitalized for suicidal ideation.
When officers found Prude, he was walking down the street naked. Footage of the encounter made public in September by Free the People ROC, a social justice organization, shows that Prude complied when officers told him to get on the ground.
Officers stood around a handcuffed Prude, joking about his behavior. Officer Mark Vaughn joked that Prude “almost got hit by a car.”
As Prude sat in the street in handcuffs, officers began to complain that he was spitting and put a “spit mask” mesh bag over his head.
When Prude protested, officers pinned him to the ground until paramedics arrived.
Officer Troy Talladay used his knee to pin Prude down at one point, and Officer Vaughn used his entire body weight to push Prude’s face against the cold asphalt.
When paramedics arrived, they noted Prude did not have a pulse. He was taken to a hospital, where a doctor told his family he was likely brain-dead, and Prude died a week later.
The medical examiner found that Prude’s cause of death was homicide caused by “complications of asphyxia in the setting of physical restraint,” as well as “excited delirium” and acute PCP intoxication.
Attorney General James said a judge granted her motion to have the grand jury minutes unsealed and made public.
“This is a critical step in effecting the change that is so desperately needed,” she said
The family’s attorneys, Ben Crump and Antonio Romanucci, said they are disappointed the officers won’t be charged for “killing Daniel Prude during what was clearly a mental health crisis.”
The officers involved in Prude’s death will remain on leave pending an internal investigation, Police Chief Cynthia Herriott-Sullivan said.
Hundreds of protestors gathered at the location where Prude encountered the officers after the grand jury’s decision was announced.
“This is not what we expected, this is not what we wanted,” said Jay Johnson, who had been at every protest for Prude since the bodycam footage was released. “Until there is justice in this system, they will not get any peace from us because it is our duty to fight for our freedom and abolish the system from the ground up.”