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The nation in brief

by Compiled by Democrat-Gazette Staff From Wire Reports | February 24, 2021 at 4:41 a.m.

N.Y. officers cleared in custody death

Rochester, N.Y., police officers shown on body camera video holding Daniel Prude down naked and handcuffed on a city street last winter until he stopped breathing will not face criminal charges, according to a grand jury decision announced Tuesday.

The 41-year-old Black man's death last March sparked nightly protests in the city after the video was released nearly six months later, with demonstrators demanding a reckoning for police and city officials.

The video made public on Sept. 4 shows Prude handcuffed and naked with a spit hood over his head as an officer pushes his face against the ground, while another officer presses a knee to his back. The officers held him down for about two minutes until he stopped breathing. He was taken off life support a week later.

The county medical examiner listed the manner of death as homicide caused by "complications of asphyxia in the setting of physical restraint" and cited PCP as a contributing factor.

State Attorney General Letitia James, whose office took over the prosecution and impaneled a grand jury, said her office "presented the strongest case possible" and she was "extremely disappointed" by the decision.

Lawyers for the seven police officers suspended over Prude's death have said the officers were following their training and that Prude's use of PCP, which caused irrational behavior, was "the root cause" of his death.

Southern Baptists oust four churches

The Southern Baptist Convention's executive committee voted Tuesday to oust four of its churches, two over policies deemed to be too inclusive of gay and transgender people and two more for employing pastors convicted of sex offenses.

The actions were announced at a meeting marked by warnings from two top leaders that the Baptist Convention, the largest Protestant denomination in the United States, was damaging itself with divisions over critical issues including race.

"We should mourn when closet racists and neo-Confederates feel more at home in our churches than do many of our people of color," said the organization's president, J.D. Greear in his opening speech.

The two churches expelled for gay and transgender inclusion were St. Matthews Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky., and Towne View Baptist Church, in Kennesaw, Ga.

Towne View's pastor, the Rev. Jim Conrad, has said that he would not appeal the ouster and plans to affiliate his church, at least temporarily, with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, which lets churches set their own LGBT policies.

St. Matthews Baptist lost its affiliation with the Kentucky Baptist Convention in 2018 because it made financial contributions to the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.

Southern Baptist Convention officials said West Side Baptist Church in Sharpsville, Pa., was ousted because it "knowingly employs as pastor a registered sex offender," while Antioch Baptist Church in Sevierville, Tenn., has a pastor who was convicted of statutory rape.

Missouri pot panel reverses 2 rejections

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- A commission that is hearing hundreds of appeals from applicants who want licenses to grow medical marijuana has approved two applications that the state previously rejected.

The state Administrative Hearing Commission on Tuesday awarded Heya Kirksville and Heya Excello cultivation licenses, according to orders issued by Commissioner Sreenivasa Rao Dandamudi, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

The decision was made after the state has spent millions of dollars on legal expenses to defend its decision to reject hundreds of applicants and limit the number of marijuana business licenses.

The Department of Health and Human Services drew criticism after it hired a private contractor in 2019 to score applications.

Dandamudi wrote in his ruling the department made a "bizarre" claim that it cannot rescore Heya Excello's application because it had delegated away its regulatory responsibility to a private contractor.

8 capsized Cubans rescued off Florida

MIAMI -- Six men and two pregnant women from Cuba have been rescued off the Florida coast after their makeshift boat capsized after 16 days at sea, the latest in a series of U.S. interdictions of Cubans in distress, authorities said Tuesday.

The capsize and interdiction off Waveland Beach, north of West Palm Beach, was captured on video Sunday by authorities, whose rescues of the past few weeks appear to follow a rise in Cuban refugees seeking to reach the United States.

The Coast Guard said that 114 Cuban migrants were interdicted between October 2019 and September 2020 by the agency and other U.S. law enforcement forces. Since October, more than 90 Cuban migrants have been interdicted, according to the agency.

All eight aboard were rescued and taken to hospitals, where they were reported in stable condition. Sheriff officials said the eight are now in the custody of federal authorities, who will determine their immigration status.

-- Compiled by Democrat-Gazette staff from wire reports

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