Officials concealed details about Daniel Prude’s arrest, death, investigation finds
Madeline Dovi, DCNF
- A six-month investigation into Rochester officials’ response to the death of Daniel Prude concluded that five high ranking officials, including the mayor and former police chief, knowingly suppressed details of the case from the public, according to a report released on Friday.
- Mayor Lovely Warren repeatedly claimed she was not informed until August about all the details of Prude’s fatal arrest, despite the report showing former Police Chief La’Ron Singletary informed her on March 23, the day of the arrest.
- The report stated the delay in release of body-camera footage was due in part to law enforcement fearing “civil unrest” in the wake of George Floyd’s death.
An independent investigation into Rochester city officials’ response to Daniel Prude’s death found that the mayor, police chief and other high-ranking city officials kept crucial details of the case hidden from the public, according to a report released Friday.
“Did officials of city government suppress information about the arrest and death of Daniel Prude between March 23, 2020, when the arrest occurred, and September 2, 2020, when the Prude family publicly released body-worn camera footage of the incident?” Andrew G. Celli Jr., the New York City-based attorney hired by the Rochester City Council to conduct the investigation, said in the report. “The straightforward answer is yes.”
The body-worn-camera (BWC) footage showed Prude on the night of his arrest “unarmed, naked and acting erratically,” before being handcuffed and head forcefully pressed into the ground by officers, the report detailed. Prude was restrained for two minutes until he stopped breathing. He was transported to Strong Memorial Hospital and died a week later after being removed from life support, the Associated Press reported.
The report found that Mayor Lovely Warren, former Police Chief La’Ron Singletary, City Councilmember Mary Lupien, Corporate Counsel Timothy Curtin and Communications Director Justin Roj were aware of the details of Prude’s fatal arrest months before it was brought to public attention in September, following publicly released body-camera footage of the incident.
Independent Investigation into the death of Daniel Prude: "Did officials of city government suppress information about the arrest and death of Daniel Prude? . . . The straightforward answer is yes.”https://t.co/Qnl1bFJYvW
— CITY (@roccitynews) March 12, 2021
A grand jury last month decided not to indict the officers involved, the AP reported.
The report, spanning more than 80 pages, found that though Mayor Lovely Warren repeatedly claimed at press conferences on Sept. 3, Sept. 6 and Sept. 16 that she did not learn until August that the police had physically restrained Prude, she actually learned of the restraint on the day of his arrest. By mid-April, Warren, the police chief and other city officials were aware of Prude’s death and that the involved officers were under criminal investigation.
Warren falsely claimed that former Police Chief Singletary had not informed her of any restraint following the arrest, and her understanding was that no physical contact had been made with Mr. Prude outside of the “normal physical contact when taking someone into custody,” the report stated. Singletary disclosed to Warren that the officers restrained Prude, but downplayed the role of restraint in his death.
“Chief Singletary stated he saw ‘nothing egregious’ in the officer’s conduct,” the report read.
The Monroe County medical examiner ruled Mr. Prude’s death a homicide that was caused by “complications of asphyxia in the setting of physical restraint,” according to the report.
The investigation found that Rochester City Councilmember Mary Lupien became aware of the details of Prude’s death after obtaining the body camera footage in mid-July, but did not disclose the information to officials nor the public due to the belief that other City Council members “already knew,” about the incident, that the Warren administration would “control the narrative around the incident.”
The report said the delay on release of body camera footage was in part due to city officials fear of backlash following the death of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man who died after being physically restrained by police in May 2020.
“At least some of the delay in the disclosure of the BWC footage of the Prude Arrest is attributable to the Law Department’s effort to accommodate a request by senior officials at the RPD, including Chief Singletary, to withhold the BWC footage for fear that its release might cause civil unrest and violence in the wake of the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis,” the report read.
Warren released a statement on Friday following the report, addressing numerous policy changes for the future, but did not acknowledge claims the report made against her regarding the case.
“I welcome today’s report because it allows our community to move forward. Throughout City government, we have acknowledged our responsibility, recognized that changes are necessary and taken action,” Warren said.
Warren touted several measures implemented following Prude’s death, including calling for the ability to fire officers for cause and reform to information transparency processes.
“Now, we must go even further and honor Daniel Prude by fully addressing our challenges regarding policing, mental health treatment and systemic inequality. I remain committed to doing this work along with the City Council…By doing so, we will create a Rochester that provides equity and opportunity for everyone,” Warren said.