The attorney general for New York State has announced plans to form a grand jury to investigate the police killing of Daniel Prude, a Black man who died of suffocation after officers put a hood over his head and held him down during an arrest.
In a short statement released on Saturday, Letitia James said her office would “move immediately” to set up the grand jury as part of its probe into the incident, which took place in Rochester, New York, in March.
“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,” the statement reads.
Prude’s family on Wednesday released body camera footage that showed a group of officers putting a hood over Prude’s head as he knelt on the ground, handcuffed and naked.
The 41-year-old was in the middle of a mental health crisis when the incident occurred. He died seven days later after being taken off life support.
His death comes amid an ongoing movement against racial injustice in the United States and growing demands for an end to police violence against Black people across the country.
The release of the footage showing Prude’s arrest prompted large-scale protests this week in Rochester, the third-largest city in New York State, where 1,000 demonstrators took to the streets on Friday to demand accountability for what happened.
Seven police officers involved in Prude’s death were suspended with pay on Thursday, but activists say more concrete action is needed.
Prude’s family has called for the officers involved to be charged.
“Mr Daniel Prude was failed by our police department, our mental healthcare system, our society, and he was failed by me,” Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren told reporters this week. “We cannot continue to fail Black lives in this way.”
Rights groups also have said Prude’s death raises critical questions about whether police should answer calls involving people experiencing mental health crises.
Having police respond can be a “recipe for disaster”, The National Alliance on Mental Illness said in a statement on Friday.
Prude’s death “is yet another harrowing tragedy, but a story not unfamiliar to us”, the advocacy group said. “People in crisis deserve help, not handcuffs.”