Police officers shown on body camera video holding Daniel Prude down naked and handcuffed on a city street last winter until he stopped breathing will not face criminal charges, according to a grand jury decision announced Tuesday.
The 41-year-old Black mans death last March sparked nightly protests in Rochester, New York, after the video was released nearly six months later, with demonstrators demanding a reckoning for police and city officials.
State Attorney General Letitia James, whose office took over the prosecution and impaneled a grand jury, said the criminal justice system is badly in need of reform.
Lawyers for the seven police officers suspended over Prudes death have said the officers were strictly following their training that night, employing a restraining technique known as segmenting. They claimed Prudes use of PCP, which caused irrational behavior, was the root cause of his death.
The video made public on Sept. 4 shows Prude handcuffed and naked with a spit hood over his head as an officer pushes his face against the ground, while another officer presses a knee to his back. The officers held him down for about two minutes until he stopped breathing. He was taken off life support a week later.
The county medical examiner listed the manner of death as homicide caused by complications of asphyxia in the setting of physical restraint and cited PCP as a contributing factor.
Prudes family filed a federal lawsuit alleging the police department sought to cover up the true nature of his death.
Officers Troy Taladay, Paul Ricotta, Francisco Santiago, Andrew Specksgoor, Josiah Harris and Mark Vaughn, along with Sgt. Michael Magri, were suspended after Prudes death became public.
Democratic Mayor Lovely Warren fired police chief LaRon Singletary shortly after the videos release, while rejecting calls from demonstrators that she resign. Singletary has said in legal papers that Warren told him to lie to support her assertion that she hadn't learned of Prude's death until months later, and fired him for his refusal to do so. A city spokesperson said his version of events confirms Warren never saw the video until August.
Warren announced a run for a third term in January and pleaded not guilty in October to an unrelated indictment alleging she broke campaign finance rules and committed fraud. The city's public integrity office found no ethical lapses by the mayor in a narrow review of Prude's death.
The city halted its investigation into Prudes 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 generals office, rather than handled by local officials.