As the trial for a Minneapolis police officer accused of murdering an unarmed black man is expected to start in earnest in the coming days, a similar case in New York months earlier has flown under the radar.
Police, so far, have escaped charges, but that could change with a federal review.
Earlier this year, Letitia James, the New York Attorney-General, announced the Rochester police officers involved with Daniel Prude's death will not be criminally charged.
The decision made by a grand jury had stung the Prude family and the African-American community, who had protested against the excessive use of force and police brutality.
Prude came from Chicago to Rochester to visit his brother, Joe Prude. Upon his arrival, he started behaving erratic, which caused Joe to call for emergency services to help his brother. Officers arrived at the scene and approached Daniel as he walked along Jefferson Avenue in the south-west part of the city, naked and disoriented, according to the Democrat & Chronicle.
He was handcuffed, and his head which was in a spit hood, was pressed against the pavement after Daniel had tried to spit on the officers, according to the report. The police held him in that position for about three minutes until he lost consciousness and stopped breathing.
The autopsy report released by the Monroe Medical Examiner’s Office determined his death as a homicide, with the cause of death by complications of asphyxia in a setting of physical restraint, according to the New York Times.
In her statement, James admitted that the decision was disappointing, especially to the Prude family, but she appealed to all the stakeholders to respect the decision.
SIMILARITIES TO GEORGE FLOYD
Prude's case draws similar parallels to the death of George Floyd just two months later. Floyd also had experienced anxiety because he was claustrophobic. His head was pinned down on the ground for 8 minutes, and his death was ruled as cardiopulmonary arrest, complicating law enforcement subdual restraint and neck compression by the Hennepin County Medical Examiner.
The former Rochester Police Chief, La'Ron Singletary, was fired and seven other officers involved with Daniel’s death were suspended while the attorney general’s office investigated the case, according to media reports.
However, in Floyd's case, all the officers were immediately fired and charged with his murder.
In Rochester’s case, so-far officers have not been charged with wrongdoing and James spoke out about the grand jury’s decisions.
“The criminal justice system has demonstrated an unwillingness to hold law enforcement officers accountable in the unjustified killing of unarmed African-Americans,” James during the press conference at the Aenon Missionary Baptist Church in Rochester, according to media reports.
The Attorney General’s Office made some recommendations on police department changes in a report released in the aftermath of the grand jury’s decision. They included bolstering training for law enforcement officers and EMS personnel to identify symptoms of excited delirium, a mandate for a de-escalate training program, data-driven analysis of defensive tactics and a written policy adoption for Rochester Police in regards to releasing body-camera footage to the public.
Footage of the events leading to Prude’s was released to the public months later.
Despite the grand jury’s decision, it doesn’t appear to end the potential criminal investigations into Prude’s death.
According to federal prosecutors, the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, in collaboration with the U.S. Attorney in Western New York and the FBI are planning a review of the attorney general's report.
In light of the murder trial of the former Minneapolis police officers currently taking place at the Hennepin County courthouse, it’s possible the case could serve as a roadmap for potential justice that Prude’s family has demanded.
As far as the Prude family is concerned, as Minneapolis goes, so goes Rochester.
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