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Protesters gather in Rochester streets after announcement that no officers will be charged in Daniel Prude’s death

Dozens of protesters marched in Rochester on Tuesday night, just hours after New York Attorney General Letitia James announced a grand jury voted not to indict any police officers on charges relating to Daniel Prude’s death.

Prude, a 41-year-old Black man, was having a mental health episode on March 23 when officers handcuffed him, covered his head with a “spit sock” and held him on the ground in a prone position. Prude was taken to a hospital, declared brain dead and died a week later.

The protesters, some holding “Black Lives Matter” signs, called for justice and chanted Prude’s name, according to video from CNN affiliate WHAM.

“This is not what we expected, this is not what we wanted, and until there is justice in this system, they will not get any peace from us,” one demonstrator told the affiliate.

The protesters marched to Rochester Police Department headquarters, “climbed over the barricades and gathered at the front door of the building,” according to a statement from the department. The crowd dispersed at approximately 11:45 p.m.

No arrests, injuries or destruction of property were reported following the protest, police spokeswoman Jacqueline Shuman said. Approximately 150 people attended.

James, the state’s attorney general, said her office “presented an extensive case and we sought a different outcome than the one the grand jury handed us today.”

“We made every attempt to demonstrate the facts, but ultimately we have to respect the decision,” she said.

She vowed to pursue reforms of use-of-force laws and shared recommendations to address issues, including mental health response and de-escalation training.

“The criminal justice system has frustrated efforts to hold law enforcement officers accountable for the unjustified killing of African Americans,” James said. “And what binds these cases is a tragic loss of life in circumstances in which the death could have been avoided.

“History has unfortunately repeated itself again in the case of Daniel Prude.”

Grand jury minutes will be released to public

In a statement Tuesday evening, James said a judge has ruled to unseal the grand jury minutes related to the case for release to the public.

“As soon as the judge authorizes, my office will release those proceedings so the Prude family, the Rochester community, and communities across the country will no longer be kept in the dark,” her statement said. “This is a critical step in effecting the change that is so desperately needed.”

Two attorneys representing several of Prude’s family members said they were “deeply disappointed that the officers will not face criminal charges.”

“This tragedy could have been avoided if officers had been properly trained but also used basic human decency and common sense to treat Mr. Prude with compassion and get him the medical attention he deserved,” attorneys Ben Crump and Antonio Romanucci said in a statement.

“We will continue to advocate for justice in the civil courts, while also seeking federal police reform so that these continued tragedies against Black citizens end once and for all,” they said.

Officers involved in case remain on leave

Meanwhile, the officers involved in the case will remain on leave pending the outcome of an internal investigation, Rochester Police Chief Cynthia Herriott-Sullivan said in a statement.

“My heart goes out to the Prude family during this difficult time,” the chief said. “I want the family and our community to know that I accepted the role of Interim Police Chief to make real, systemic change, and that is still my goal.”

The Rochester Police Locust Club, which represents the seven suspended officers, declined to comment pending the ongoing investigation.

Matthew Rich, who represents several of the officers, said the decision was a “long time coming.”

“We’ve been eagerly awaiting this, and we aren’t surprised by it. We are glad the grand jury made the right decision, but this doesn’t put an end to the situation the community finds itself,” Rich said.

Attorney James Nobles, who represents another officer, echoed Rich’s statement and said the city should seek policy changes within the department rather than punish individual officers.

Michael Schiano, an attorney for another officer who was suspended, said, he wasn’t surprised at the decision.

“We have said since the beginning the officers did what they were trained to do,” Schiano said in a statement. “I disagree with Attorney General James that somehow the Grand Jury got it wrong.”

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