Prude Death Investigation

Daniel Prude’s family alleges internal cover-up in federal lawsuit against City of Rochester

Daniel Prude

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — The family of Daniel Prude has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the City of Rochester, Police Chief La’Ron Singletary, and the officers involved in the encounter that led to the 41-year-old Chicago man’s death back in March.

Seven Rochester police officers have been suspended with pay in connection to the incident: Officers Mark Vaughn, Troy Taladay, Paul Ricotta, Francisco Santiago, Andrew Specksgoor, Josiah Harris, and Sgt. Michael Magri.

MORE | Daniel Prude timeline: From March encounter with police to current protests in Rochester

Protests have been ongoing in Rochester since the news broke Wednesday.

The lawsuit from the family alleges an internal cover-up (page 5), and the family is demanding a jury trial. The lawsuit specifically aims to accomplish (page 65):

  • Award appropriate compensatory and punitive damages.
  • Award appropriate declaratory and injunctive relief, including appointing a federal monitor to oversee necessary reforms of the Defendant CITY’s process for investigating incidents where RPD Officers use force, and implementing measures to ensure that officers who use force without justification are disciplined.
  • Empanel a jury.
  • Award attorney’s fees and costs pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1988;
  • Award such other and further relief as the Court deems to be in the interest of justice

Two key notes to highlight from the lawsuit include:

  • RPD’s Major Crimes Unit continued to investigate the incident and on April 27, 2020, issued its report and concluded that the officers involved did not commit a crime. This was after the medical examiner’s report ruled the cause of death a homicide, and this meant that the officers faced no disciplinary action until after the video of the body camera footage was made public by his family over five months after the incident.
  • Three of the officers suspended for Prude’s death have refused to sit for an interview with the Attorney General’s office for the investigation.

This federal civil rights lawsuit comes on the same day of a major shake-up in RPD leadership. Police Chief La’Ron Singletary announced his retirement.

Joining Singletary in retirement is Deptuty Chief Morabito, Commander Fabian Rivera, and Commander Elena Correia. Rochester police officials say both Deputy Chief Mark Simmons and Commander Henry Favor are returning to the previously held rank of lieutenant.

MORE | Mayor Lovely Warren on future of Rochester Police Department: ‘I do not have all the answers today’

Elliot Shields, an attorney for the Prude family, issued the following statement Tuesday regarding the retirement announcements within the RPD:

These resignations are a good first step. But the RPD’s official written determination is contained in a report issued at the conclusion of the investigation conducted by the Major Crimes Unit, dated April 27, 2020, which stated that, after reviewing the body worn camera recordings and interviewing the involved officers, “the officers’ actions and conduct displayed when dealing with Prude appear to be appropriate and consistent with their training.

Mayor Warren and Chief Singletary’s claim that the video is horrible ignores their own department’s determination. They have failed to address or repudiate their department’s conclusion that the officers’ actions were appropriate and “consistent with their training”, which demonstrates a complete lack of leadership. That’s why the RPD needs a complete overhaul—there is much work to be done.

MORE | Rochester police union on RPD shake-up: ‘Problems of leadership go directly to the mayor’s office’

Prude death lawsuit

Check back with News 8 WROC as we will continue to update this developing story.

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