ROCHESTER, N.Y. — The metropolis’s police chief and several other of his division’s highest rating officers resigned or have been demoted on Tuesday in the aftermath of the dying of Daniel Prude, a Black man who suffocated after he had been positioned in a hood by Rochester law enforcement officials and pinned to the bottom.
The sudden retirements of the police chief, La’Ron D. Singletary, the deputy chief, Joseph Morabito, and a commander, in addition to the demotions of one other deputy chief and commander, got here three days after the state legal professional common introduced that she would impanel a grand jury to contemplate proof in Mr. Prude’s dying.
“As a man of integrity, I will not sit idly by while outside entities attempt to destroy my character,” the police chief mentioned in a press release. He later added: “The mischaracterization and the politicization of the actions that I took after being informed of Mr. Prude’s death is not based on facts, and is not what I stand for.”
Officials in Rochester had not publicly disclosed the dying of Mr. Prude, 41, till an open data request by his household prompted town to show over officers’ physique digital camera footage that exposed his wrestle, bare and hooded, by the hands of the police. Mr. Prude’s household in current days has accused officers of protecting up his dying to guard the law enforcement officials concerned.
Chief Singletary, who will step down on the finish of September, denied any wrongdoing on the half of the officers, at the same time as seven have been suspended final week. As not too long ago as Sunday, he vowed to work to enhance group relations in the division “to prevent this from ever happening again.”
Mayor Lovely Warren introduced the departures in a video name to the Rochester City Council. “The entire Rochester Police Department command staff has announced their retirement,” she mentioned. The mayor mentioned she had not requested the chief’s resignation, however added that he had acknowledged that the occasions “could’ve been handled differently.”
“But he didn’t in any way try to cover this up,” she mentioned.
She mentioned the resignation adopted “new information that was brought to light today that I had not previously seen before.” She didn’t elaborate.
Also on Tuesday, Mr. Prude’s sister, Tameshay Prude, filed a civil rights lawsuit in United States District Court for the Western District of New York in opposition to the City of Rochester, Chief Singletary and the officers concerned in the encounter.
The lawsuit singled out a number of officers on the scene that morning, together with Officer Mark Vaughn, who held Mr. Prude’s head to the pavement.
The lawsuit and the resignations are the newest developments in an explosive week in Rochester for the reason that launch of the physique digital camera footage exhibiting Mr. Prude’s encounter with the police.
Mr. Prude arrived in Rochester by practice from Chicago and to his brother’s dwelling on March 22. He was behaving so erratically, paranoid and hallucinating, that his brother, Joe Prude, had him admitted to a hospital for analysis. But Mr. Prude was launched hours later, and early the morning of March 23, he bolted from the house and into the streets.
Officers discovered him bare and ranting; a witness mentioned he heard Mr. Prude declare he had the coronavirus, then on the sharp rise in New York. He was handcuffed with out incident, seated in the road. But when he started spitting and ignored orders to cease, officers pulled a so-called spit hood over his head.
Mr. Prude turned agitated and tried to rise, and officers restrained him by pushing his head into the road and putting a knee on his torso, in response to footage from the physique cameras.
Officer Vaughn “put each his fingers on the facet of Mr. Prude’s head and pushed down together with his full physique weight — basically in a triangle push-up or ‘tripod’ place,” the lawsuit states. “The body-worn camera recordings show that Vaughn remains in this position — pushing his full body weight down on Mr. Prude’s head — for over two minutes and 15 seconds.”
Mr. Prude stopped respiratory and his coronary heart stopped beating. Paramedics revived him and took him to a hospital, the place he died March 30.
Hours after the incident, Chief Singletary informed Ms. Warren that an individual had suffered a drug overdose whereas in custody, Ms. Warren mentioned final week. But a county post-mortem report labeled Mr. Prude’s dying a murder attributable to issues of asphyxiation in a inclined place.
Chief Singletary was promoted to the department’s top position last year after serving 19 years with the department. Just 38 years old at the time, he was among the youngest police chiefs in the city’s history.
“He’s been — his whole life — wanting to be a police officer,” his cousin, Karen Frazer Crawford, said at the time.
The union that represents the police force, The Rochester Police Locust Club, said that its leadership was caught by surprise by the retirements and demotions.
“What is clear is that the problems of leadership go directly to the mayor’s office,” the union said in a statement. “Our members remain focused and committed to serving the citizens of this city, despite the lack of support and leadership that we are witnessing coming from our elected officials in City Hall.”
Protests have taken place in the streets since the release of the video. On Tuesday, the mayor told reporters that keeping the protests safe was a top priority.
“I want to assure our community that the Rochester Police Department will continue to serve and protect our residents and our neighborhoods,” Ms. Warren said during a brief appearance at City Hall.
“While the timing and tenor of these resignations is difficult, we have faced tough times before,” she added. “We will get through this together.”
The City Council president, Loretta Scott, said the retirements and demotions were disturbing and unexpected.
“Personnel changes happen, but the timing of it is what makes it a bit disturbing,” Ms. Scott said as she met with reporters on Tuesday afternoon. She said the council would keep the protesters’ demands in mind when it looked for a new police chief.
“The systems need to change” Ms. Scott said. “We won’t lose focus of that.”
Sarah Maslin Nir contributed reporting from New York.