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Ex-New York police chief sues Democratic mayor for allegedly pushing 'narrative' in Daniel Prude death probe

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The former police chief of Rochester, New York, is suing the mayor and the city for $1.5 million in damages, arguing his character was defamed and he was wrongfully terminated following the investigation into Daniel Prude’s death.  

Former Rochester Police Chief La’Ron Singletary filed a 26-page civil lawsuit in New York State Supreme Court late Tuesday seeking damages from Mayor Lovely A. Warren and the City of Rochester over the alleged “defamation of character, the creation of a hostile work environment preventing his fulfilling the duties of chief of police and his wrongful and retaliatory termination” effective since September 2020. 

This follows a notice of claim Singletary already filed in December, WROC reported. 

ROCHESTER INVESTIGATION INTO DANIEL PRUDE’S DEATH FAULTS MAYOR AND OTHER CITY OFFICIALS FOR KEEPING IT A SECRET 

On Sept. 7, 2020, Warren allegedly asked Singletary “to withhold full and truthful information from the City Council investigation into the matter of Daniel Prude,” according to the lawsuit. The mayor asked the former police chief instead “to provide false information and to omit material information” to support Warren’s “public narrative concerning her knowledge of the events in the matter.” 

But Singletary repeatedly refused to lie on her behalf, the lawsuit says. 

The lawsuit alleges that Warren “falsely and publicly declared” that Singletary “withheld information concerning the circumstances leading to the death of Daniel Prude” and “failed to provide information concerning the Medical Examiner’s report and its conclusions including the determination that Mr. Prude’s death was a homicide.” It also says, “Defendant Warren most broadly defames Plaintiff’s reputation by falsely claiming that he intentionally deceived Defendant Warren, the City of Rochester, and the community of Rochester.” 

In this March 23, 2020 image made from police body camera video, provided by Roth and Roth LLP, a Rochester police officer puts a hood over the head of Daniel Prude in Rochester, N.Y. Newly released transcripts show that a grand jury investigating the police suffocation death of Daniel Prude last year in Rochester, New York, voted 15-5 to clear the three officers involved in his restraint of a criminally negligent homicide charge sought by prosecutors. 

In this March 23, 2020 image made from police body camera video, provided by Roth and Roth LLP, a Rochester police officer puts a hood over the head of Daniel Prude in Rochester, N.Y. Newly released transcripts show that a grand jury investigating the police suffocation death of Daniel Prude last year in Rochester, New York, voted 15-5 to clear the three officers involved in his restraint of a criminally negligent homicide charge sought by prosecutors. 
((Rochester Police via Roth and Roth LLP via AP, File))

City spokesman Justin Roj issued a statement in response to the litigation. 

“As detailed in recent court proceedings reported today involving other officers, there has been a legacy in the Rochester Police Department of untruthfulness,” he said, according to WHEC. “Mr. Singletary’s testimony to the Special Counsel detailed his own inability to tell the truth, as a simple viewing of his testimony under oath clearly shows. Mr. Singletary failed in his duties as Chief and was rightfully terminated due to those failures.” 

Prude’s family had released body camera footage in September 2020, roughly six months after Rochester police responded to the area of Jefferson Avenue Dr. Samuel McCree Way that March. 

The video shows the 41-year-old Black man naked with a spit hood over his head in the middle of a street as officers pressed his head into the ground and kneeled on his back. He was restrained in this manner for about two minutes before he stopped breathing. 

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He was hospitalized and died seven days later. 

New York Attorney General Letitia James later said Prude was experiencing “a mental health crisis.” A report by the Monroe County Medical Examiner’s Office categorized Prude’s death a homicide, listing his cause of death as “complications of asphyxia in the setting of physical restraint.” 

The seven police officers involved remained suspended, but a grand jury in February declined to indict them on any criminal charges. 

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