Sep 3, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Rochester mayor suspends officers involved in suffocation death of Daniel Prude

Photo of Rochester Mayor  Lovely A. Warren.

Lovely A. Warren, mayor of Rochester, speaks during a press conference on the death of Daniel Prude. Photo by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

Seven police officers involved in the suffocation death of Daniel Prude, a Black man, in Rochester, New York, have been suspended, the city's mayor announced on Thursday.

What she's saying: “Mr. Daniel Prude was failed by the police department, our mental health care system, our society and he was failed by me,” Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren said during a press conference.

  • "What I saw in that video was a man who needed help, a man who needed compassion, a man who needed humanity, a man who we have respected, a man who was in crisis. Our response to him was wrong and we need to change how we deal with these situations going forward," Warren added, referring to body camera footage of the arrest.
  • Warren, who is Black, also invoked her own family's experience with police brutality, saying her cousin's grandfather was the victim of police violence in 1962.
    • "It is now September of 2020 and Daniel Prude’s death has proven yet again that many of the challenges that we faced then are the same challenges that we face today."

Context: Prude's death only received public attention after his family released body cam footage on Wednesday that showed police officers putting a hood over the 41-year-old's head and holding his face to the pavement for two minutes on March 23.

  • Prude's brother had called police, saying his brother, who was naked at the time of the arrest, was having a mental health episode.
  • Prude, who was from Chicago, died seven days after the incident when his family took him off life support. His death was ruled a homicide, arising from "complications of asphyxia in the setting of physical restraint," according to local news channel WROC.
  • Prude's family has called for the officers to be fired.

Of note: Warren said Rochester Police Chief La'ron Singletary initially told her that Prude died of a drug overdose while in police custody. The mayor said she had not seen the video of Prude's arrest until Aug. 4.

  • "I have addressed with the police chief how deeply and personally and professionally disappointed I am for him failing to fully and accurately inform me about what occurred with Mr. Prude. He knows he needs to do better to truly protect and serve our community and I believe that he will," Warren said.
  • The mayor added that she suspended the officers against the advice of the city's corporation council. "I understand that the union may sue the city for this. They should feel free to do so," she noted. "I would not be who I am today if I don’t stand by own truth."
  • She said the officers will continue to receive pay, per police contract rules.

What's next: New York Attorney General Letitia James is conducting an investigation into the Prude's death.

  • Warren said she ordered the police chief to give her office any additional video from the incident within 24 hours, as well as provide briefings on the criminal and internal aspects of the department's probe.
  • Warren also said Singletary must develop a plan within 30 days "to further address our police departments response to mental health calls."
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