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Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren kept critical details of Daniel Prude’s in-custody suffocation death secret for months, and lied to the public about the case, a new investigation has found.
A report commissioned by city lawmakers and released Friday found Warren knew on the day of Prude’s deadly March 23, 2020, arrest that officers had covered his head with a hood, and that one cop had pushed his face against the ground while another held his knee into his back.
Warren and former Police Chief La’Ron Singletary also knew in April that those actions had killed the mentally ill man and that the cops were under criminal investigation, the 84-page report found.
And yet at a September press conference, Warren falsely claimed to have only learned cops put a hood over the unarmed black man’s head in August, the report said.
The mayor was also dishonest when she claimed that police had misled her about the circumstances of the case, according to the report.
Investigators also found that police officials urged city leaders to delay the release of the bodycam footage of Prude’s death to avoid being targeted by Black Lives Matter protesters enraged over the police killing of George Floyd.
The video, made public by Prude’s family, shows Prude handcuffed and naked and with a hood over his head while he is being restrained by the two cops.
Prude stopped breathing during the arrest, and was taken off life support after a week.
“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,” the report said.
“But Mayor Warren alone is not responsible for the suppression of the circumstances of the Prude arrest and Mr. Prude’s death.”
While ignoring the reports findings of her dishonesty, Warren said she welcomed it “because it allows our community to move forward.”
“Throughout city government, we have acknowledged our responsibility, recognized that changes are necessary and taken action,” she said, citing various measures on police practices and discipline,” the Democrat said.
A lawyer representing the city of Rochester denied that Warren lied about the case, claiming that if anything she said wasn’t true, it was because she was misled by Singletary, who was fired amid the case’s fallout.
The report found Singletary told the mayor the specifics of the incident, but “consistently deemphasized” the role of restraints in Prude’s death, which “likely impacted” how city officials viewed the matter.
Warren told the public that Singletary initially told her that Prude’s died from a “drug overdose,” but the report found he never told her that.
Singletary, was found to have made “untrue statements by omission” when he failed to correct Warren’s claim that she did not know Prude’s death was a homicide at the September press conference. Singletary told her the death was ruled a homicide on April 13, the report said.
A city lawyer was also implicated of wrongdoing in the report by falsely telling Warren the city could not take disciplinary action against the officer while state prosecutors investigated.
In February, a grand jury did not indict the officers involved in Prude’s death, to the chagrin of Attorney General Letitia James, who pledged to seek justice in the case after footage of the incident sparked weeks of protests.
Lawyers for the seven officers suspended over Prude’s death have said the upstate cops were following their training that night, and blamed the 41 year-old’s PCP use for his death.
“There are no surprises in there. It confirms most of what I already knew,” said attorney Elliot Shields, who represents Prude’s brother, Joe.
“What it shows me on a larger scale is the systemic failures of the city,” he said.
Prude’s family has filed a federal lawsuit alleging the Rochester Police Department tried to cover up his death.
With AP wires
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