Attorney General James’ Special Investigations and Prosecutions Unit Releases Report on Investigation Into the Death of Wenzola Rountree

NEW YORK – Today, New York Attorney General Letitia James’ Special Investigations and Prosecutions Unit (SIPU) released its report on the death of Wenzola Rountree. On July 19, 2020, Mr. Rountree died after a brief encounter with the Suffolk County Police Department (SCPD). After a careful review of the evidence which included body-worn camera footage, medical records, an autopsy report, interviews with multiple witnesses, and other such materials in connection with this matter, SIPU has determined that criminal charges against the officers in this matter are not merited.

On July 19, 2020, a 911 caller reported that Mr. Rountree was in the backyard of a home in Patchogue, New York. The caller reported that Mr. Rountree was unclothed and believed that he was under the influence. SCPD responded to the emergency call, and shortly after arriving, called emergency rescue personnel because Mr. Rountree had trouble breathing and struggled to communicate. Shortly after calling emergency personnel, Mr. Rountree fled the scene and ran into a nearby stranger’s home where he engaged in a physical altercation with the residents. Officers approached the second scene and attempted to handcuff Mr. Rountree to escort him out of the home. This was the first and only time SCPD officers made physical contact with Mr. Rountree. After a short attempt to handcuff him, he became non-responsive. Emergency personnel performed resuscitative measures and rushed Mr. Rountree to the local hospital. Upon arrival at the local hospital, Mr. Rountree was pronounced dead.

Under the law, the officers were justified in their use of minimal force in attempting to handcuff Mr. Rountree to safely remove him from the home he had entered. The medical examiner’s report also noted a number of significant factors which contributed to Mr. Rountree’s death, including acute cocaine and alcohol intoxication and several other pre-existing cardiovascular conditions.

“SIPU approaches every case that we investigate with a careful hand and an objective lens,” said Attorney General James. “This was a tragic situation that resulted in the death of Mr. Rountree. Based on all the evidence we gathered and analyzed over the course of our investigation, we concluded that there was no evidence that the members of the Suffolk County Police Department engaged in criminal conduct. I send out my deepest condolences to Wenzola Rountree’s family and his loved ones.”