“Daniel Prude was in a mental crisis and what he needed was compassion, care and help from trained professionals. Tragically, he received none of these things,” James said in a statement. “We concluded that there was sufficient evidence about Mr. Prude’s death to justify the presentation of the case to a grand jury, and we presented the most comprehensive case possible.
“While I know the Prude family, the Rochester community and communities across the country will rightly be devastated and disappointed, we need to respect that decision,” James added.
Lawyers Ben Crump and Antonio Romanucci, representing Prude’s family, said they were “deeply disappointed that officers will not be prosecuted for killing Daniel Prude during a clear mental crisis as he lay naked in the cold.”
“This tragedy could have been avoided if officers had been properly trained but also used basic human decency and common sense to treat Mr. Prude with compassion and get him the medical care he deserved,” the lawyers said in a statement. “We will continue to advocate for justice in the civil courts, while also seeking federal police reform so that these continued tragedies against black citizens end once and for all.”
James said that laws of lethal power have “created a system that completely and abusively failed Mr. Prude and so many others before him.”
“There is a need for serious reform, not just in the Rochester Police Department, but for our criminal justice system as a whole,” said James, who launched an investigation into the case in April.
Police dash and body camera footage, released months after the incident, showed officers handcuffing a naked Prude and covering his head with a “saliva stocking” after he claimed he had coronavirus and spat.
Officers held him and pushed him to the ground in a supine position, according to the video, which also showed officers kneeling on Prude.
EMTs arrived later and began performing chest compressions, the video showed. Prude was placed on a gurney and in an ambulance.
When Prude arrived at the hospital, he was brain dead according to his brother. He died a week later.
Seven police officers involved in the arrest were suspended. The police union has insisted that the officers follow their training and protocols.
Prude, 41, had a mental health episode on March 23 when his brother Joe called the Rochester Police Department for help, his family told reporters.
Prude’s death was ruled as a homicide by the Monroe County Medical Examiner, according to a copy of the autopsy report obtained by lawyers for his family. The report cited complications of suffocation associated with physical restraint as a finding. The report also cited agitated delirium and acute PCP poisoning as causes of death.
Death also raised questions about how police respond to cases involving people in a mental health crisis. Police are often the first to respond to reports of someone acting unfairly, and they occasionally use police tactics or force in their response.
In September, Rochester City Council approved a lawsuit against a New York law firm that conducted the independent investigation into the city’s handling of the case – especially whether there was internal concealment and how information about Prude’s death was kept from the public in western New York City.
In a published police incident report, among many edits, some prosaic, Prude’s name is written in the space marked “Victim”. Prude’s name is circled in red next to a large, handwritten note: “Make him suspicious.”
Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren pushed the police chief out before his retirement and suspended two other city employees.
In September, Prude’s sister filed a lawsuit in federal court against the former police chief, 13 officers and the city, claiming in part a cover-up of the death.
The former police chief, La’Ron Singletary, said earlier this month that he did not see any “gross” or any criminal behavior from police officers when he first saw body camera video of the incident. He testified in a virtual deposition to an independent investigator.