The city of Rochester has agreed to pay $12 million to settle the wrongful death claim brought by Daniel Prude’s family, Mayor Malik Evans announced today.
Prude died in March 2020 after an encounter with city police officers left him unconscious. He succumbed in Strong Memorial Hospital a week after his March 28 arrest having never regained consciousness.
Kept under wraps for months by former Mayor Lovely Warren’s administration, the incident sparked fierce demonstrations and vocal calls for Warren and former Chief of Police La’Ron Singletary to resign.
In his statement, Evans said that “given the costs of continued litigation, this settlement was the best decision. It would have cost taxpayers even more to litigate, and would have placed a painful toll on our community.
“It is now time to look forward so we may work together and focus our efforts on Rochester’s future.”
Prude’s family had twice called 911 for assistance after Prude left his brother’s home under the influence of the powerful drug PCP. In the first encounter, police took Prude to Strong Memorial, which released him after an emergency department evaluation.
The second call came hours later after Prude returned to his brother’s home but again left in agitated state. In the second encounter, which occurred in the early hours of a chilly spring morning, police put a so-called spit hood over Prude’s head after he told them he had COVID and would spit on them. After restraining Prude, who had apparently discarded his clothing, police let him lie naked on the street until an ambulance arrived.
The incident came to light only after Prude’s family obtained police body camera footage of the encounter some five months after it occurred and held a press conference on City Hall’s steps. Angry demonstrations immediately followed.
“I placed a phone call for my brother to get help, not for my brother to get lynched,” Joseph Prude said, calling Daniel Prude’s death “cold-blooded murder.”
In February 2021, state Attorney General Letitia James announced that a grand jury voted against indicting Rochester police officers on criminal charges related to Prude’s death.
As controversy over the Prude case mounted, Rochester City Council commissioned New York City civil rights attorney Andrew Celli, the son and namesake of a well-known Monroe County judge, to investigate the affair. Evans, who at the time sat on Council, played a part in ordering the probe.
After extensive interviews of city administration figures and RPD officials including Warren and Singletary as well as council members, Celli issued a report whose findings included that Warren’s claim to have first learned about the circumstances of Prude’s death months after it occurred was undercut by other city officials’ testimony and that Singletary had favored keeping Prude’s death under wraps.
“What I tell people about that investigation is that it was a whodunit, and the answer is everybody,” Celli told the Rochester Beacon in an interview last June.
“Everybody had a role to play. Sometimes you could say it was for venal reasons and sometimes it was for noble reasons or maybe a little of both,” said Celli. “But there was nobody who came out of that without us having to say that they could have done more to make this a public issue.”
Warren lost the June 2021 Democratic mayoral primary to Evans and stepped down on Dec. 1, as part of a plea agreement in which she pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor, admitting that she accepted donations beyond the legal limits. In the heat of the Prude controversy, she had fired Singletary, who accused her of “throwing me under bus.”
Singletary, who told Celli that he had considered running for Rochester mayor, is currently the Republican candidate in a bid to unseat Monroe County congressional representative, Joe Morelle, a two-term Irondequoit Democrat.
Will Astor is Rochester Beacon senior writer. The Beacon welcomes comments from readers who adhere to our comment policy including use of their full, real name.
A family enriched from a misdeed and attorneys enriched with the process. What a country we live in. How long will it be able to maintain this path. Beyond sad.