(Reuters) - New York Attorney General Letitia James on Saturday moved to form a grand jury to investigate the death of Daniel Prude, a Black man who died after Rochester police officers used a hood and pinned him to the pavement to restrain him.
“The Prude family and the Rochester community have been through great pain and anguish. My office will immediately move to empanel a grand jury as part of our exhaustive investigation into this matter,” James said in a statement.
Rochester, a city of 200,000 people in the northwest corner of the state, erupted with protests this week after the Prude family released body camera footage from the arrest of Daniel Prude in March.
The footage showed a group of officers putting a mesh hood over Prude’s head - apparently to prevent his spit from possibly transmitting the novel coronavirus - as he kneels naked and restrained on the street.
The video footage also shows officers forcing Prude’s face down on the ground. Prude can be heard shouting, “Take this ... off my face!” and “You’re trying to kill me!” in response to the hood. Officers are heard saying “Calm down” and “stop spitting.”
He died a week later at the hospital.
Seven police officers were suspended on Thursday over the arrest. The medical examiner ruled his death a homicide caused by “complications of asphyxia in the setting of physical restraint”, with intoxication by the drug PCP, a contributing factor.
Rochester officials have faced questions over why the officers were not disciplined until the videotape became public five months later. On Friday, the Rochester police union chief defended the officers, saying they followed their training in responding to Prude, who was having a psychotic episode.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren both issued statements welcoming the grand jury. A spokeswoman for the Rochester Police Department declined to comment.
“I thank Attorney General James for taking this action because it is a trying time in Rochester,” Warren said.
Protests are expected again on Saturday in Rochester after nearly 1,000 demonstrators marched downtown on Friday night.
Reporting by Nathan Layne in Wilton, Connecticut; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall
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