Daniel Prude died last spring after police in Rochester, New York restrained him
Newly released transcripts from the Daniel Prude case show that a grand jury voted 15-5 not to charge the three officers involved in his restraint of a criminally negligent homicide charge sought by prosecutors.
Prude, 41, was the black man who died last spring after police in Rochester, New York restrained him as he was walking naked in the roadway, placing a a spit-hood over his head and pinning him to the pavement.
The names of witnesses and jurors were blacked out of the transcripts, which were released Friday, weeks after State Attorney General Letitia James secured a judge´s approval to make the usually secret material public.
‘This nation has a long and painful history of injustice, and every day, we are working to create a fairer and more equal system,’ said James, a Democrat. ‘Our efforts to balance the scales of justice and ensure accountability can only go so far in the absence of transparency.’
‘We took the unprecedented action of seeking to release the grand jury transcripts because the public deserves to know what happened in these proceedings,’ she continued.
Grand jury transcripts in the case were released on Friday after State Attorney General Letitia James secured a judge´s approval to make the usually secret material public
Prude was acting erratically after ingesting PCP on March 23, 2020 when Rochester police were called to respond by a family member.
Officers put a spit-hood over his face after he began spitting on them while handcuffed, and held him face-down on the pavement for two minutes and fifteen seconds when he stopped breathing.
Prude was taken off life support a week later. A medical examiner called it a homicide and cited PCP intoxication and ‘excited delirium’ as a factor.
The case only gained widespread attention in early September, when body camera video was made public by Prude’s family in the midst of national protests over the death of George Floyd.
The release of the transcripts in the case of Prude comes at a sensitive time for the issue of race in policing.
Testimony is ending in the trial of former Officer Derek Chauvin in Minneapolis in the killing of Floyd.
Prude was acting erratically after ingesting PCP on March 23, 2020 when Rochester police were called to respond by a family member
Officers put a spit-hood over Prude’s face after he began spitting on them while handcuffed, and held him face-down on the pavement for two minutes and fifteen seconds
And on Thursday, bodycam video was released that showed a Chicago police officer fatally shoot a 13-year-old last month less than a second after the boy appeared to drop a handgun, turn toward the officer and begin raising his hands.
The Prude transcripts reveal that criminally negligent homicide was the only charge prosecutors from the state attorney general´s office asked the grand jury to consider after nine days of testimony from witnesses including Prude´s brother, other police officers and experts.
The transcripts show one Prude juror praised the prosecution team for helping make sense of the case, telling them: ‘You guys did amazing work. If it wasn’t for everything that you presented to us, I don’t think anybody would have come up with a decision.’
‘You worked very hard and I’m sure nobody took it lightly. It was a very serious case. It’s horrible what happened to him,’ the juror said.
At one point, prosecutor Michael Smith drew grand jurors’ attention to a part of a 2015 Rochester Police Department training bulletin that explained that ‘positional asphyxia may occur when the position of the person´s body interferes with respiration, resulting in serious injury or death’ and that the risk of such asphyxia ‘can increase when the person is restrained in a prone position.’
Protesters march in Rochester last month on the anniversary of Prude’s arrest
Prude’s death sparked protests, including this one at Rochester’s Public Safety Building on September 7, 2020
The images sparked nightly protests in Rochester, which has also been roiled by body cam footage of white officers using pepper spray on a 9-year-old Black girl who was handcuffed in the back of a squad car.
An investigation into the official response that was released last month faulted the city´s mayor and former police chief for keeping critical details of the case secret for months and lying to the public about what they knew.
The grand jury reached its decision in February, sparking new rounds of protests in Rochester.
In March, on the anniversary of Prude’s death, a Black Lives Matter demonstration forced staff at a supermarket to lock its doors trapping customers locked inside for nearly an hour.
The staff of Wegmans closed the doors, to prevent the protesters entering, leaving around 100 customers stuck inside.
According to CBS affiliate WROC, the demonstrations started with a rally at 8am.
The protesters blocked the departure of buses from a terminal, and then marched up to a branch of the Wegmans supermarket, where staff barricaded shoppers inside.
Community Justice Initiative, Free the People Roc and supporters marched down East Avenue to the Wegmans in Rochester, on March 23, 2021 where they blocked people from entering
The protesters blocked the departure of buses from a terminal, and then marched up to a branch of the Wegmans supermarket, where staff barricaded shoppers inside
Protesters were blocked from entering a Wegmans store in Rochester on March 23
Footage filmed by 13 WHAM showed the BLM crowd writing Prude’s name in chalk outside the supermarket, while frustrated shoppers looked out.
On of the protesters told Rochester Democrat and Chronicle that Wegmans was symbolic of some of the problems in the city.
‘As we march, rally and protest — you have to be able to stop commerce,’ said Anthony Hall, a Rochester native who has worked with the city as a youth gang intervention specialist. He is also running for City Council.
‘Wegmans is a large business in Monroe County,’ Hall said.
‘This is the only Wegmans in the city limits, but it’s not accessible to the city residents. Hopefully, Danny Wegman talks with the Mayor and City Council because this affected him today. We want people to be inconvenienced because Daniel Prude’s family has suffered a great loss.’
Justin Morris, president of the Rochester Chapter of the Arc of Justice, a grassroots organization for social change, told the paper: ‘Wegmans exemplifies what’s wrong in our community.’.
He continued: ‘Wegmans started in the inner-city, in some of our most vulnerable communities, then they got their check and left.