“Ultimately, the decision not to make these facts public was with Mayor Warren, as elected Mayor of Rochester. However, Mayor Warren alone is not responsible for suppressing the circumstances surrounding Prude’s arrest and Mr. Prude’s death,” concluded an Independent Report. Adrian Kraus / AP Hide the caption
Adrian Kraus / AP
Adrian Kraus / AP
Rochester City officials, including the former police chief and the mayor, “knowingly suppressed” information from the public, and some officials made “false statements” about the events that led to the death of Daniel Prude, a black man mental health episode that was suffocated and handcuffed by police.
An independent report released on Friday reported how former Rochester Police Chief La’Ron Singletary and Mayor Lovely Warren took deliberate steps over a period of more than five months to address the disruptive nature of the encounter between Prude and not to disclose to the officials. Their investigation was triggered by fears of possible protests and violence in a national account of the deaths of unarmed blacks in police custody.
“Ultimately, the decision not to make these facts public was up to Mayor Warren as the elected mayor of Rochester,” said Andrew Celli, who was recruited by the city council, in the 84-page report.
“But Mayor Warren alone is not responsible for suppressing the circumstances surrounding Prude’s arrest and Mr. Prude’s death.”
The tragic incident, initiated by his family, who called the police to help them deal with Prude during a psychological and drug-related episode, occurred on March 23, 2020. He was naked and behaved erratically, according to police reports. As a result, the 41-year-old man was handcuffed and eventually put a hood over his head to prevent him from spitting on the officers. A medical examiner declared Prude’s death – seven days later in a hospital – to be murder and said the immediate cause was “suffocation when physically restrained”.
However, his death did not become public until early September, when officials fulfilled a public request for police camera footage of the arrest submitted months earlier by the family.
The video sparked outrage when it was released by the family, leading to days of protests and urging the mayor and police chief to resign on charges of cover-up.
Warren later fired Singletary after a preliminary report from the deputy mayor identified serious problems with police and city guides’ response to Prude’s death. The mayor also suspended the city’s attorney, Tim Curtin, and its communications director, Justin Roj, for 30 days without pay. Warren called for federal investigations and citywide reforms based on the findings and recommendations of the 1o-page report.
Celli has cited internal communications, emails, phone recordings, and text messages. He also deposed Warren, Singletary, and other city officials.
Throughout the report, Celli noted that Singletary “consistently downgraded the role of police officers in Daniel Prude’s death and that his statements did not capture the disturbing tenor of the entire encounter.”
The boss’s characterization likely also had an impact on how city officials who were reported to have died in police custody viewed what happened, according to Celli.
Other city officials also played a role in delaying or attempting to prevent the information from being published, and at times made serious false statements.
Prosecutor Curtin actively “discouraged” the Mayor from publicly dealing with the arrest after Warren first viewed the body camera footage, “citing reasons that were factually inaccurate, legally unfounded, or both,” it says the report. During a meeting, attorney told Warren that she was prohibited from taking any disciplinary action against the officer involved in the arrest until an investigation by the Attorney General’s Office was completed. Curtin alleged that the attorney general had “asked the city not to take any action regarding disciplining officials” and ordered the city to “step down” and not make any public statements on the Prude matter. “
However, the report states: “In fact, the OAG had not instructed the city to resign or make any public statements about the Prude Matter, and there was no factual basis for Mr Curtin to claim so.”
Councilor Mary Lupien was also found to have purposely withheld information from her colleagues. Lupien, who learned of the arrest about two months before receiving the requested documents, decided not to speak publicly or inform other city officials about the matter.
The report also mentions deliberate efforts by Singletary and other city officials to delay the release of the body camera footage for the Prude family. They included requests for additional release forms that weren’t required and then delayed delivery of the form from the city’s lawyers to law enforcement. Another means to hold the trial in motion “comes from efforts by the Legal Department to respond to a request from senior US government officials [Rochester Police Department], including Chief Singletary, to withhold BWC footage fearing its release could lead to civil unrest and violence following the assassination of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25, 2020. “
Although Singletary alerted Warren to Prude’s arrest, passed out during the incident and sustained life-threatening injuries, the mayor waited more than four months to view the body camera footage.
In doing so, Warren “expressed deep shock, anger, and dismay at the behavior of the RPD officers, as shown on the BWC videotape – particularly the behavior of Officer Vaughn pushing Mr. Prude’s head in and across the sidewalk.” the laughter and the carefree demeanor of the local officials, “the report said.
Singletary had previously told the mayor that he had checked the video with the body camera and that he had seen nothing “outrageous” in the behavior of the officers. He said officers held Prude’s head on the ground and put pressure on his back to stabilize him. “Singletary did not describe the local officials as joking or mocking Mr. Prude.”
In December, the Rochester City Public Integrity Bureau released its own report in which it found “no evidence” that a city official had violated “guidelines or ethical standards” when Prude died. After a month-long investigation by the New York City Attorney’s Office, a grand jury agreed in February that no charges would be brought against Rochester police officers in connection with Prude’s death.
At the time, Attorney General Letitia James said, “The current deadly violence laws have created a system that has utterly and bitterly failed Mr Prude and so many others before him. Serious reforms are needed, not just in the Rochester Police Department. but for our criminal justice system as a whole. “
The officers involved in the killing remain suspended. Warren, who was charged in October with campaign drug abuse, is seeking a third term as mayor.