Rochester to pay $12M to settle lawsuit filed by Daniel Prude family, largest civil rights settlement in city's history




  • In US
  • 2022-10-06 17:32:07Z
  • By Democrat and Chronicle

The City of Rochester has agreed to pay $12 million to settle a wrongful death suit filed by Daniel Prude's family.

It's the largest civil rights settlement in Rochester's history, city officials confirmed.

Rochester Mayor Malik Evans announced the settlement in a press release Thursday morning.

"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," Evans said.

The settlement is not an admission of liability, the court documents show. Almost $4 million of the total $12 million will cover attorney fees.

Prude's death and the perception that city officials tried to cover it up led to weeks of protests, the firing of Rochester's police chief, and a primary election loss by once-popular incumbent Mayor Lovely Warren.

On Thursday, Prude's son Nathaniel McFarland said in a press release that his father's "only crime was needing help." Prude died while experiencing a severe mental health crisis.

Court documents say that two federal judges were appointed as mediators to arrive at the settlement and the negotiation process took place "...over several months".

Attorneys for Prude's estate called for the New York Legislature to pass "Daniel's Law," a bill that would replace police response to calls for mental health interventions with trained mental health professionals.

"No purely monetary settlement can truly address the fundamental problem of police violence that underlies this tragic case," Attorney Matthew Piers said in the press release. "Policing in this country must be reformed to be more humane. This is true especially, but not only, in communities of color that are so frequently harmed by systems that purport to serve and protect them."

Daniel Prude died after being restrained by police.
Daniel Prude died after being restrained by police.  

More:How Daniel Prude suffocated as Rochester police restrained him

More:Who was Daniel Prude? What we know about man who died in police custody

More:Timeline of Prude case

Rochester police body camera footage of police interaction with Daniel Prude on March 23, 2020.
Rochester police body camera footage of police interaction with Daniel Prude on March 23, 2020.  

What happened to Daniel Prude?

Daniel Prude died of asphyxiation in March 2020 after Rochester police officers trying to take him into protective custody pinned him to the ground while restraining him.

Prude's brother had called 911, concerned that Prude was having a severe mental health crisis after taking PCP. Officers found the 41-year-old man walking naked in the middle of Jefferson Avenue just after 3 a.m. on March 23, 2020.

During an 11-minute confrontation, multiple police officers were on the scene, as well as two emergency medical technicians. Force was applied for several minutes to Prude's head and back as he lay on the pavement. He lost consciousness after officers cut off his breathing and Prude was transported to the hospital, where he died a week later.

The incident occurred in March - two months before George Floyd's very similar death in Minneapolis touched off nationwide protests - yet it didn't become public until September. A lawyer for Prude's family called a press conference and released video of officers' body cameras showing the deadly encounter. Prude's family and local activists called his death a murder and demanded that the officers involved be fired and charged inhis homicide.

The revelation of Prude's death and the perception that it had been covered up prompted weeks of public protests, which at times led to violent confrontations with police. Mayor Lovely Warren said that she had first learned about Prude's death in August, a claim that Rochester police chief La'Ron Singletary disputed.

Singeltary and the members of his command staff submitted their resignations a week after Prude's death was revealed. Mayor Warren fired Singeltary before his resignation was scheduled to take effect.

A six-month fact-finding investigation into the city's handling of the Prude case ultimately blamed Mayor Lovely Warren for keeping the matter under wraps - and concluded she then misled the public about what she knew, and when.

The Prude controversy was one of several factors that led to Warren's loss in the mayoral primary a few months later. Singeltary has since launched a campaign for Congress.

New York Attorney General Letitia James presented the case to a grand jury, which declined to bring charges against any of the officers involved in the death of Prude. One officer, Mark Vaughn, faced departmental charges for unnecessary and/or excessive force and discourteous/unprofessional conduct.

This article originally appeared on Rochester Democrat and Chronicle: Daniel Prude death lawsuit: Rochester to pay $12M in settlement

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