The Rochester police officers involved in the death of Daniel Prude won't face charges, NY AG says

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Haven Orecchio-Egresitz
·6 min read
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Daniel Prude Rochester
Joe Prude, brother of Daniel Prude, right, and his son Armin, stand with a picture of Daniel Prude in Rochester, N.Y., on Thursday, Sept. 3, 2020. AP Photo/Ted Shaffrey
  • The Rochester officers involved in Daniel Prude's death won't face criminal charges, NY AG said.

  • Prude died a week after officers put a bag over his head and pressed his face to the ground.

  • His brother said he was the one to call 911 to get help for his Daniel, who was in mental crisis.

  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

New York Attorney General Letitia James announced Tuesday that none of the officers who were at the Rochester scene associated with Daniel Prude's death will face criminal charges for their actions.

The case was presented to a Grand Jury, which chose not to indict the officers.

"My office presented an extensive case and we sought a different outcome than the one the Grand Jury handed us today," she said from Aenon Missionary Baptist Church.

Prude, of Chicago, died last March a week after his brother called 911 seeking help for him during a mental crisis.

When officers responded to the call, they found Prude naked in the street and put a "spit hood" over his head due to concerns he might have COVID-19, according to police video made public in September. The officers pressed his head to the ground for two minutes until he stopped breathing. He was taken off life support seven days later and died.

Prude's brother, Joe Prude, spoke out about the case in the fall.

Joe Prude said that the day his brother arrived in Rochester on March 22, he immediately tried to get him psychiatric help after he was hallucinating at their home.

An AG report released Tuesday says that Joe Prude's wife called 911 that day and four officers arrived at their home. Prude told police he had consumed PCP, marijuana, and alcohol.

He was taken to the hospital for a medical evaluation, but he was released only hours later, according to the report.

He arrived back at Joe Prude's home 11 p.m. and by 3 a.m. the next day, his continued concerning behavior resulted in the final 911 call that lead to his death.

"I placed a phone call for my brother to get help. Not for my brother to get lynched," Joe Prude said at a press conference in September. "When I say 'got lynched,' that was a full-fledged on-going murder, cold-blooded."

The news of Prude's death reignited outrage at a time when Americans were already calling for an end to police brutality.

AG James launched an investigation into the incident in April.

The seven officers on scene that day - Mark Vaughn, Troy Talladay, Paul Ricotta, Francisco Santiago, Andrew Specksgoor, Josiah Harris, and Sgt. Mark Magri - were suspended in September.

Then the Rochester Police department's entire command staff, including its chief, resigned.

James said Tuesday that she is "extremely disappointed" in the Grand Jury's decision and said that she will now continue her fight to reform the criminal justice system.

Her office put together a package that outlines her calls for reform, which include changes to the police use of force standards, implementing coordinated mental health response, analyzing the use of spit hoods, and training officers in unconscious bias and deescalation

"We need to take a systemic look at policing in Rochester, and not just Rochester, but all throughout the state of New York," she said.

Tuesday's decision puts an end to the criminal investigation into the officers, but the Prude family can continue any efforts in civil court.

It is up to the Rochester Police Department whether the officers involved can return to work, she said.

daniel prude memorial
A makeshift memorial is seen, Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2020, in Rochester, N.Y., near the site where Daniel Prude was restrained by police officers. Prude, a Black man who had run naked through the streets of the western New York city, died of asphyxiation after a group of police officers put a hood over his head, then pressed his face into the pavement for two minutes, according to video and records released Wednesday by his family. Prude died March 30 after he was taken off life support, seven days after the encounter with police in Rochester. AP Photo/Adrian Kraus

Killings during crisis

James' office also released a 112 page report detailing the investigation into Prude's death.

"What that report depicts is a man in the throes of a mental health crisis who was literally crying out for help the only way that he knew," James said.

"And his brother, Joe, also placed a call for help," she added. "He didnt call for the police to come deal with a law enforcement crisis. He called for emergency medical professionals to deal with a mental health crisis."

When police were called, Prude was experiencing "excited delirium," a state that can cause individuals to act irrationally and also put them at risk of death if they're put under increased stress, James said.

"Yet the officers who ultimately restrained Mr. Prude were largely unfamiliar with how to handle this type of medical emergency," the AG said. "And this is not an isolated problem."

Throughout the fall, Insider spoke to mothers around the US who called 911 when their sons were experiencing a mental health crisis, only to end up summoning officers who ended up killing their loved ones.

In most cases, the families first tried to seek involuntary treatment for the men through the civil-commitment process - in which a person can argue that a loved one needs to be entered into treatment even if they oppose it.

This system, though, usually involves the courts or law enforcement to be involved, which can lead to traumatizing or even fatal encounters.

"The debris and wreckage that leaves behind for the family members who are essentially survivors, who may themselves feel like they had a hand in contributing to the death of a loved one - this survivorship is one of the most under-recognized sources of mental-health disparities in the country," Alexander Tsai, a psychiatrist and researcher at Massachusetts General Hospital, previously told Insider.

James said Tuesday that the manner in which police treated Prude - including by putting a spit hood over his head - added to his stress and agitation that day.

"We know that Daniel Prude was experiencing a mental health crisis and the service that he received was devoid of compassion and trained professionals," James said. "My heart aches for the Prude family and for the countless others who have suffered just as they have."

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