ROCHESTER, N.Y. – In an 84-paged report released Friday, an independent investigator faults Rochester mayor Lovely Warren for the city’s months-long failure to tell the public about the death of Daniel Prude while in police custody.
The report also blamed former Police Chief La’Ron Singletary for downplaying the matter in internal communications. And it calls out false statements made by both, along with city Corporation Counsel Tim Curtin, before and particularly after the case ultimately became public in September.
“In the final analysis, the decision not to publicly disclose these facts rested with Mayor Warren, as the elected mayor of the city of Rochester,” an executive summary states. “But Mayor Warren alone is not responsible for the suppression of the circumstances of the Prude arrest and Mr. Prude’s death.
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“In his internal communications with the Mayor, the Law Department, and the Communications Bureau in April 2020, Chief Singletary disclosed but consistently de-emphasized the role of police restraints in the death of Daniel Prude, and his statements did not capture the disturbing tenor of the entire encounter. Chief Singletary’s characterization of the Prude Arrest likely impacted how the City officials he informed of the matter viewed what had occurred.”
Prude, 41, died of asphyxiation last March after being restrained by police. He was in the midst of a mental health crisis and allegedly high on PCP. The public only learned of the case last September after the city relented to the Prude family demand for release of the officers’ body-worn camera video, and the family called a news conference.
Questions immediately focused on who knew what, when, and what they did with the information. Seeking to address those questions, City Council hired New York lawyer and Rochester native Andrew Celli and his firm to conduct an outside review.
“What this city, this community is craving is honesty. This city right now is craving truth,” said City Councilman Mitch Gruber said at the time.
In the months since, Celli has subpoenaed countless records, including text messages, deposed Warren, Singletary and others. Separately, a state-led criminal investigation concluded with no charges against the officers involved.
The officers remain suspended, and a City Council majority is urging interim Police Chief Cynthia Heriott-Sullivan to proceed with discipline, up to and including their termination.
Follow Brian Sharp on Twitter @sharproc.