Lack of Charges for Officers Involved in Homicide because of Findings of Drug Use Underscore Fundamental Need for Change

New York, NY – In response to the abhorrent NYPD killing of Dwayne Pritchett while following his father’s 911 call for help for a mental health crisis — and the Attorney General’s office’s determination to not charge the officers who killed him because of findings of drug use — Melissa Moore, New York State Director for the Drug Policy Alliance, released the following statement:
“It’s horrific that a family member’s call for help during a mental health crisis resulted in NYPD killing Dwayne Pritchett. While his death has been officially ruled a homicide, the officers involved will not be charged according to the Attorney General’s office. 
We will not stand silent during yet another case where there is no accountability for law enforcement killing people in the midst of a mental health crisis and then the person’s drug use being used a justification for their death. Let’s be clear– the drug war that has diverted valuable resources away from community health and towards militarized policing killed Dwayne Pritchett.
New York must stop operating in a way that prioritizes and values criminalization and demonization over health responses that center a person’s well-being when they’re in crisis. Governor Cuomo must make it abundantly clear that mental health and substance use should have nothing to do with police. He has the power to issue an executive order mandating that municipalities develop a plan for police reform to ensure that New York shifts its approach away from police and instead reallocate those resources to city and state health agencies, harm reduction programs, and community-based organizations – all of whom are better trained and equipped to address acute crises and actually keep our communities safe.”
Key points from the AG report 

  • At approximately 4:50 p.m. on January 28, 2018, Prentis Pritchett called 911 to report that his son, Dwayne Pritchett “had taken drugs,” was “going crazy” and had barricaded himself inside of his bedroom. Specifically, Prentis Pritchett reported, “My son, my son. He’s on some type of drug he took. He’s a psych patient. And he’s trying to barge in the room that he’s in. Buggin’ out…goin’…goin’ nuts man.” 
  • Prentis Pritchett told the 911 operator that his son had attacked him and that he was frightened. He explained that his son was taking psychiatric medication and requested an ambulance. He also said that his son was frightened. Prentis Pritchett told both the 911 operator and the EMS operator that his son was not armed with any weapons.
  • According to Prentis Pritchett, his son Dwayne had broken up with his girlfriend approximately three weeks earlier and had begun drinking heavily. Prentis Pritchett informed PO Miller that his son used both crack cocaine and heroin and suffered from bi-polar syndrome. According to Prentis Pritchett, his son’s condition got worse when he used drugs.
  • As detailed below, Dr. Roman [Medical Examiner] concluded that Dwayne Pritchett’s cause of death was “Sudden death of intoxicated individual (ethanol, phencyclidine, heroin, fentanyl, and cocaine) during physical struggle with police including neck compression.” Dr. Roman characterized Dwayne Pritchett’s manner of death “homicide.”
  • Dr. Roman submitted samples of Dwayne Pritchett’s blood and bodily fluids for toxicological analysis. This analysis showed that Dwayne Pritchett had a blood alcohol content of 0.05g%. 72 The testing also found the presence of phencyclidine73, morphine74, benzoylecgonine75, fentanyl76 Norfentanyl77, cannabinoids78, and contine79. Included in Dr. Roman’s final diagnoses included: “Acute and chronic substance abuse.”
  • Despite the fact that a significant amount of suspected marijuana was: photographed by the Crime Scene Unit (hereinafter “CSU”), included in a Search warrant application that was prepared by the Bronx County District Attorney’s Office, and ultimately collected from the kitchen area of the apartment, a decision was apparently made at the precinct to discard it. 
  • Witnesses stated that a small amount of what appeared to be rock crack cocaine was recovered from a couch in the living room. Despite the fact that CSU apparently missed this evidence, a member of FID identified it and photographed the plastic bag with his cell phone. No detective ever vouchered this evidence.
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