After body-camera video of Mr. Prude’s death became public in the fall, his name joined a now-familiar list of Black people killed during interactions with the police, including George Floyd, whose death in Minneapolis led to months of demonstrations nationwide. Particularly unsettling in the case of Mr. Prude were images of him in a hood, reminiscent of the ones used in lynchings of Black people. The officers had placed what they said was a protective covering over his head after he spit at them.
Ms. James said she was “extremely disappointed” that there would be no charges for the officers involved. The seven members of the Police Department who took part in Mr. Prude’s arrest — Officers Josiah Harris, Francisco Santiago, Paul Ricotta, Andrew Specksgoor, Mark Vaughn and Troy Taladay and Sgt. Michael Magri — remain on leave. An internal department investigation is ongoing.
The Rochester Police Locust Club, the union that represents the city’s 700 law enforcement officers, declined to comment on the grand jury’s decision.
Criminal charges against police officers involved in similar cases around the country have been rare, stoking calls for greater accountability. Though there have been notable exceptions — four Minneapolis officers were fired and charged criminally in the death of Mr. Floyd — grand juries have historically declined to indict police after deadly interactions with Black people.
Ms. James noted Tuesday that legal standards can make prosecuting police officers particularly challenging. “The system too often allows officers to use deadly force unnecessarily and without consequence,” Ms. James said.
She called for sweeping reforms in how the police interact with and are trained to deal with people in emotional distress and released a report that offered a minute-by-minute narrative of Mr. Prude’s last hours but did not draw any conclusions about possible crimes that the police might have committed.
Mr. Prude, 41, lived in Chicago but had been visiting his brother in Rochester. Friends said that before his death, Mr. Prude had begun to rely more heavily on the drug PCP, also known as angel dust, which can cause erratic behavior. He began to use drugs, they said, to cope with the 2018 death by suicide of his nephew, with whom he had lived.