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Daniel Prude case to go to grand jury, after accusations of a cover-up 

New York's attorney general announced Saturday that she would empanel a grand jury to consider evidence in the death of Daniel Prude, who died after being suffocated while restrained by police officers.
click to enlarge Daniel Prude - PHOTO PROVIDED
  • PHOTO PROVIDED
  • Daniel Prude

The announcement by Letitia James suggested mounting public anger to word of Prude's death had moved her to act after months of silence and inaction. A day earlier, Gov. Andrew Cuomo released a statement saying that he hoped the attorney general could move her investigation along.

Prude, 41, was arrested on March 23 and fell into unconsciousness and stopped breathing after three officers held down his head, legs, and put a knee in his back while he was lying face-down in the middle of Jefferson Avenue in the early morning hours. He was naked and handcuffed and officers had placed a mesh hood over his head known as a "spit sock."

Prude had allegedly been on a destructive tear, having broken several storefront windows and shouting that he had the coronavirus. When he died a week later after suffering brain damage from his confrontation with officers, the county medical examiner found traces of PCP in his bloodstream, suggesting he may have been high on the drug.

“The Prude family and the Rochester community have been through great pain and anguish,” James said in a statement. “My office will immediately move to empanel a grand jury as part of our exhaustive investigation into this matter.”

Investigation of Prude's death fell to the attorney general under a state executive order Cuomo signed in 2015 following the death of Eric Garner at the hands of police in New York City. The order, which has been amended many times, essentially gives jurisdiction of cases of civilians who die in police custody to the attorney general.
click to enlarge Daniel Prude's brother, Joe Prude, outside City Hall on Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2020, to announce plans to sue the city over Prude's death. - PHOTO BY MAX SCHULTE
  • PHOTO BY MAX SCHULTE
  • Daniel Prude's brother, Joe Prude, outside City Hall on Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2020, to announce plans to sue the city over Prude's death.
Prude's death became known on Wednesday, when the lawyer for his estate held a news conference announcing his intent to sue the city and released an abundance of materials related to Prude's arrest, including police body camera footage and police reports, that he obtained from the city through an open records request.

Mayor Lovely Warren, who has come under intense fire for her handling of the matter, issued a statement thanking the attorney general for taking the action, saying that "it is a trying time in Rochester."

"I ask that the community to allow the AG’s process to go forth on behalf of the Prude family," Warren said.
click to enlarge Protesters shunned Rochester Police Chief La'Ron Singletary (inset) during what was billed as a community conversation with police and politicians at the First Church of God on Thursday, Sept. 3, 2020. - PHOTO BY MAX SCHULTE
  • PHOTO BY MAX SCHULTE
  • Protesters shunned Rochester Police Chief La'Ron Singletary (inset) during what was billed as a community conversation with police and politicians at the First Church of God on Thursday, Sept. 3, 2020.
Warren has been criticized particularly for not speaking out about Prude's death until this week. She claimed that she not only didn't know the specific circumstances of Prude's death but that she was prohibited from making it public by the Attorney General's Office.

The city's corporation counsel, Tim Curtin, has said that the mayor was free to do whatever she wanted, but that he had advised her to keep the matter under wraps until the attorney general finished her investigation.
click to enlarge Black Lives Matter, clergy and politicians clashed on Thursday, Sept. 3, 2020, as protests over the death of Daniel Prude  continued. - PHOTO BY MAX SCHULTE
  • PHOTO BY MAX SCHULTE
  • Black Lives Matter, clergy and politicians clashed on Thursday, Sept. 3, 2020, as protests over the death of Daniel Prude continued.
Demonstrations drawing hundreds and thousands of people have been a nightly recurrence in Rochester since Thursday, and another protest is scheduled for Saturday.

David Andreatta is CITY's editor. He can be reached at dandreatta@rochester-citynews.com.
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