New York forms grand jury to investigate Daniel Prude's death at hands of Rochester police
Police clashed with protesters Friday, firing tear gas, officials said.
After a third night of protests in Rochester, New York, the state attorney general's office announced Saturday it was moving to empanel a grand jury as part of its investigation into the death of Daniel Prude, a Black man who died after being restrained by police during a mental health emergency.
“The Prude family and the Rochester community have been through great pain and anguish," New York Attorney General Letitia James said in a statement. "My office will immediately move to empanel a grand jury as part of our exhaustive investigation into this matter.”
The grand jury would determine whether charges should be brought in the case.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo applauded James' decision in a statement of his own.
"Earlier this week, I called for the investigation into Daniel Prude's death to be expedited," he said. "Today, I applaud Attorney General Tish James for taking swift, decisive action in empaneling a grand jury -- justice delayed is justice denied and the people of New York deserve the truth."
Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren also thanked James on Sunday. "I ask that the community to allow the AG’s process to go forth on behalf of the Prude family," she said in a statement.
The police union also said it supported the grand jury investigation, calling for a "fair and unbiased" look at the death.
"We understand and support New York Attorney General Letitia James announcement to complete an exhaustive investigation," the Rochester Police Locust Club said in a statement. "We believe that an independent Investigation that is conducted by her office in a fair and unbiased way determining and seeking the truth is needed in our community."
The update on the investigation into Prude's death came after thousands took to the streets on Friday calling for justice for Prude. It was the largest crowd gathered in the city since the release of body camera footage that showed Rochester police officers pinning Prude, 41, on the ground and placing a bag over his head before he lost consciousness.
Police declared Friday night's protest an “unlawful assembly" following a peaceful gathering at Martin Luther King Jr. Park earlier in the evening, ABC News Rochester affiliate 13WHAM reported.
Upwards of 2,000 people were in downtown Rochester Friday night, officials said, . Many demonstrators could be seen wearing goggles and carrying umbrellas as they marched toward police barricades chanting "Black Lives Matter."
Police used pepper balls and pepper spray to disperse the crowd in response to "aggressive behavior," the department said, citing protesters throwing rocks, bottles and other forms of debris.
Shortly after midnight, officers also deployed tear gas after "a group of agitators began hurling commercial grade fireworks directly at officers," the department said.
Garbage cans and a bus shelter were also lit on fire.
The arrests included disorderly conduct and unlawful assembly, rioting and inciting a riot. Four people were remanded to the Monroe County Jail and seven were issued appearance tickets, authorities said.
Three officers were hospitalized, the department said. Two had cuts, severe swelling and contusions on their hands and legs, while a third had burns on their neck. All three were later released, officials said.
Joe Prude, the brother of Daniel Prude, could be seen leading demonstrators on Friday. Prude's family is calling for the seven officers involved in his brother's fatal encounter to be fired and criminal charges to be filed.
The seven officers were suspended with pay, Mayor Warren announced Thursday, a day after the release of the body camera footage.
"That horrific moment was something that I won't wish upon nobody to see. Don't no family member deserve to see their family member there being tortured like that,” Joe Prude told ABC News this week.
Activists are also calling for the resignation of Warren and Rochester Police Chief La'Ron Singletary, and for police to stop using pepper spray and pepper balls on protesters.
Elliot Shield, the attorney representing the Prude family, said the family intends to sue "everyone responsible for Daniel’s death."
"This incident is only coming to light right now because we requested the body camera footage and all of the police reports under New York's Freedom of Information law," said Shield.
Officers responded to a 911 call made by Prude's family on March 23 after they said he was going through a mental health issue. The body camera footage, first obtained by the Democrat and Chronicle, showed several officers approach Prude, who was naked and kneeling on the street.
Prude appears in the video to comply with the officers' orders and questions as they placed him in handcuffs. He began to shout and spit at the officers, who then placed a spit bag over his head, the video showed.
Three officers are then seen pushing Prude to the ground and pinning him while he continues to shout and spit and eventually vomit, according to the video and police report. Prude appears to go lifeless minutes later.
An ambulance is later seen arriving and a paramedic attempts to do CPR before Prude is put on a stretcher and driven away. Prude died a week later. The Monroe County medical examiner declared his death a homicide due to "complications of asphyxia," according to the preliminary autopsy report.
ABC News' Joshua Hoyos and Alondra Valle contributed to this report.