US grand jury declines charges in police death of Black man hooded by officers

Demonstrators kneel in front of a memorial during a protest following the death of a Black man, Daniel Prude, during an arrest on March 23, in Rochester, New York September 3, 2020. — Reuters pic
Demonstrators kneel in front of a memorial during a protest following the death of a Black man, Daniel Prude, during an arrest on March 23, in Rochester, New York September 3, 2020. — Reuters pic

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NEW YORK, Feb 24 — A US grand jury declined to charge any police officers in the death of Daniel Prude, a Black man who suffocated while being arrested during a mental health emergency in Rochester, New York last year, the state’s attorney general Letitia James said yesterday.

“I’m extremely disappointed,” James said, while explaining that the jurors have the final say in the matter.

The US justice system often sees prosecutors convene a grand jury to study the evidence of a case and decide whether or not to press charges and go to trial. 

“We sought a different outcome than the one the grand jury handed us today,” James said.

“Ultimately we have to respect the decision.”

A video of the arrest, which took place last March in the northern New York city, was made public in September. 

Prude was nude in the middle of a street when police arrived on the scene. They quickly arrested and handcuffed him and put a hood over his head because he said he had contracted the coronavirus. 

The video shows one of the officers holding the hood on Prude’s head with both hands before Prude eventually passed out.

The 41-year-old, who was unarmed and dealing with a mental health crisis during the incident, died a week later without ever regaining consciousness. 

The episode provoked a series of demonstrations against the Rochester police, including calls for the resignation of the department’s chief, La’Ron Singletary, who is also Black.

The medical examiner ruled Prude’s death a homicide due to “complications of asphyxia in the setting of physical restraint.”

Prude’s death echoes other police killings of Black Americans last spring, including of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, which set off hundreds of protests around the United States and the world against racism and police violence.  

“The criminal justice system is badly in need of reform,” James said yesterday. 

“The system too often allows officers to use deadly force unnecessarily and without consequence and that is a system that at its core is broken.” — AFP

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