Once again, an innocent black man’s death at the hands of law enforcement will go unpunished. A New York grand jury failed to indict the Rochester police officers involved in Daniel Prude’s death in March 2020, while he was in the midst of an acute mental health crisis. Mr. Prude died of “complications of asphyxia in the setting of physical restraint,” according to the Monroe County Medical Examiner’s office.
Answering an emergency call regarding Mr. Prude’s verbal outbursts — which possibly indicated a mental health crisis — the 7 officers responded by handcuffing him, placing a mesh hood over him, and forcing him to the ground. Eventually Mr. Prude stopped resisting and became motionless as he died. Mr. Prude’s cause of death is listed as “homicide.”
News of Mr. Prude’s death sparked nationwide outrage, reaching a fury as the Rochester NY Police Department sought to obfuscate and cover up the details of Mr. Prude’s death. Body cam footage was initially denied to Mr. Prude’s family, and internal memos suggested that law enforcement officers “Make (Mr. Prude) the suspect.”
New York Attorney General calls for reforms
While the grand jury chose not to indict the law enforcement officers, New York Attorney General Letitia James won her plea to present the courts’ minutes to the public. “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,” said Attorney General James in a statement.
She followed, “The current laws on deadly force have created a system that utterly and abjectly failed Mr. Prude and so many others before him. Serious reform is needed, not only at the Rochester Police Department, but to our criminal justice system as a whole.”
Mr. Prude was in Rochester, New York visiting his brother at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown. At one point he began to have a mental health breakdown and left his brother’s home in anger and frustration. When Mr. Prude’s brother called 911 for help, Attorney General James noted, he had called for “emergency medical professionals to deal with a mental health crisis” and that officers knew this, but proceeded to apply restraints.
Demanding accountability and criminal justice reform, citizens in Rochester continue to protest since last September, when the body cam footage was released. It showed Mr. Prude’s last moments in graphic detail. Law enforcement officers once again escape punishment when faced with a reckoning to end the senseless murders of innocent black men and women.