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New York attorney general to call grand jury to investigate Daniel Prude’s death

Letitia James
New York Att. Gen. Letitia James takes a question at a news conference on Aug. 6 in New York. James said on Saturday that she would impanel a grand jury to look into the death of Daniel Prude after he was restrained by police in Rochester in March.
(Kathy Willens / Associated Press)

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 after being hooded and held down by Rochester police earlier this year.

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

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

Another protest was planned for Saturday on the street where Prude was detained.

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Advocates for such legislation say Prude’s death and the actions of seven now-suspended Rochester police officers — including one who covered the Black man’s head with a “spit hood” during the March encounter — demonstrate how police are ill-equipped to deal with people suffering from mental problems.

Having police respond can be a “recipe for disaster,” the National Alliance on Mental Illness said in a statement Friday.

Prude’s death “is yet another harrowing tragedy, but a story not unfamiliar to us,” the advocacy group said. “People in crisis deserve help, not handcuffs.”

Stanley Martin, an organizer of Free the People Rochester, told reporters: “We do not need violent workers with guns to respond to mental health crises.”

Activists have marched nightly in the city of 210,000 on Lake Ontario since police body camera videos of the encounter with Prude were released by his family Wednesday.

Friday night’s protest resulted in 11 arrests, police said. As they had the night before, officers doused activists outside police headquarters with a chemical spray to drive them from barricades around the building.

As the night wore on, demonstrators were pushed farther back as police fired what appeared to be pepper balls. Fireworks were shot off and a bus stop was set on fire.

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Prude’s family has said he appeared to be spiraling into crisis in the hours before police handcuffed him on a street and pinned the naked man face down. In the video, police are seen covering his head with the white spit hood, designed to protect police from bodily fluids.

“You’re trying to kill me!” the 41-year-old man is heard saying. He died days later in what the medical examiner ruled was a homicide.

A police union has defended the officers involved in the encounter, saying they were strictly following department training and protocols, including using the mesh hood.


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