The mayor of Rochester, New York, has called for a federal investigation into the death of Daniel Prude, a black man who was suffocated by police officers in the street nearly six months ago.
Mayor Lovely Warren disclosed her request for a federal probe on Monday and said that she had relieved Rochester Police Chief La’Ron Singletary of his duties effective September 21, according to News8.
Singletary had announced his retirement – along with several other members of the police department – last week. His last day was supposed to be September 29.
Warren did not say who would oversee the department after Singletary’s departure but said she was looking for an interim chief to hold the position until June 2021.
The mayor also revealed that the city’s communications director, Justin Roj, and its city corporation counsel, Tim Curtin, have been suspended without pay for 30 days.
Her announcement came as Rochester has endured nearly two weeks of nightly protests since a video of 41-year-old Prude’s fatal encounter with police on March 23 was made public on September 2.
Prude’s family filed a civil lawsuit against the city, alleging that its leaders and police department covered up the details of his death.
Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren (left) on Monday called for a federal investigation into the death of Daniel Prude (right) who was suffocated by police officers in the street back in March
Warren ordered Police Chief La’Ron Singletary (pictured) to step down effective September 21
Warren also revealed that the city’s communications director, Justin Roj (left), and its city corporation counsel, Tim Curtin (right), have been suspended without pay for 30 days
‘I have directed the deputy mayor to initiative an internal management review of the city handling of the mental hygiene arrest and subsequent death of Daniel Prude,’ Warren told reporters at a press conference.
‘Frankly the public should have been informed of Mr Prude’s death and the circumstances that led to his death in March, and after seeing the video, I should have conducted a formal review.’
The mayor continued: ‘This initial look has shown that we have a pervasive problem in the Rochester Police Department, one that views everything through the eyes of the badge and not the citizens we serve.
‘I have apologized to the Prude family and this community for the failures that have happened along the way, including my own as mayor. Never again can we allow any man or woman to needlessly die in police custody.’
Warren then disclosed that she has asked the US Attorney’s Office to conduct its an investigation into ‘possible violations of Mr Prude’s civil rights’.
‘This tragic loss of life has shown that we have systematic failures,’ she said.
‘We have to acknowledge these failures and put in place these forms that create transparency. We will regroup in a few days when I will answer any questions you have given the documents you will receive today.’
Prude was naked and in handcuffs when the ‘spit hood’ was put over his head during an arrest on March 23 – after his brother called 911 seeking help for his erratic behavior
Paramedics arrived as Prude was wrestled to the floor, still wearing the ‘spit hood’
The New York State Attorney General’s Office opened its own investigation into Prude’s death after his family released body cam footage of the incident earlier this month.
Officers had responded to a 911 call made by his brother, seeking help for Prude’s erratic behavior on March 23.
Prude, who had mental health issues, was naked at the time of his arrest, and was handcuffed and pinned down to the pavement with a ‘spit hood’ placed over his head as officers restrained him for two minutes before he lost consciousness.
He was taken off life support a week after the arrest on March 30.
The autopsy report from the Monroe County Medical Examiner’s Office ruled that Prude’s death was a homicide caused in part by ‘complications of asphyxia in the setting of physical restraint’.
The autopsy also showed that Prude had a small amount of PCP in his system at the time of his death, which could explain his erratic behavior.
Seven Rochester police officers have been suspended with pay in connection with the case: Mark Vaughn, Troy Taladay, Paul Ricotta, Francisco Santiago, Andrew Specksgoor, Josiah Harris and Michael Magri.
Roj, the city communications director, responded to his suspension without pay in a statement shortly after Warren’s press conference on Monday.
‘I accept the discipline issued by Mayor Warren today,’ he said. ‘At no time, before August 4, was I aware of what had happened to Mr Prude, and when I saw the video I immediately expressed by opinion within City Hall that the officers involved should no longer be on our streets.
‘I personally believe that Mr Prude would be alive today if the responding officers recognized his humanity and acted with compassion and restraint.’
Roj went on to say that he did not disclose the video’s existence publicly after he saw it because he was informed that an investigation was underway and did not want to hinder it.
‘In hindsight, I agree I should have questioned the Chief further and/or taken the opportunity to discuss his email with the Mayor,’ he said.
Prude’s family held a vigil in his honor on September 10 in Rochester (pictured)