NY attorney general to form grand jury after Prude death

ROCHESTER, NY (AP) — New York’s attorney general on Saturday moved to form a grand jury to investigate the death of Daniel Prude, a Black man who died earlier this year after Rochester police placed a hood over his head and held him down.

“The Prude family and the Rochester community have been through great pain and anguish,” Attorney General Letitia James said in a statement about Prude’s death, which has sparked nightly protests and calls for reform. She said the grand jury would be part of an “exhaustive investigation”.

Prude’s death after his brother called for help for his erratic behaviour in March has roiled New York’s third-largest city since video of the encounter was made public earlier this week, with protesters demanding more accountability for how it happened and legislation to change how authorities respond to mental health emergencies.

“This is just the beginning,” Ashley Gantt, a protest organiser, said by email after James’ announcement. “We will not be stopped in our quest for truth and justice.”

Hundreds of protesters gathered on Saturday for a fourth night on the street where Prude, naked and handcuffed, was held face-down as snow fell. Policy body camera video shows officers covering Prude’s head with a “spit hood”, designed to protect police from bodily fluids, then pressing his face into the pavement for two minutes.

New York State Attorney General Letitia James. PHOTO: AP

Prude died a week later after he was taken off life support.

The Monroe County medical examiner listed the manner of death as homicide caused by “complications of asphyxia in the setting of physical restraint”. Excited delirium and acute intoxication by phencyclidine, or PCP, were contributing factors, the report said.

A police internal affairs investigation cleared the officers involved of any wrongdoing, concluding in April that their “actions and conduct displayed when dealing with Prude appear to be appropriate and consistent with their training”.

James’ office opened its investigation the same month. Under New York law, deaths of unarmed people in police custody are often turned over to the attorney general’s office, rather than handled by local officials.

Police union officials have said the officers were strictly following department training and protocols.

Governor Andrew Cuomo earlier this week called on James to expedite the probe.