Prude Death Investigation

Rochester Police Chief La’Ron Singletary, more RPD command staff retire in wake of Daniel Prude death

Local News

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Rochester Police Chief La’Ron Singletary is retiring, along with other members Rochester Police Department’s command staff, Mayor Lovely Warren said Tuesday.

The mayor held a 90-second press conference at City Hall Tuesday to address the RPD shake-up, and did not take questions from media.

“I want to ensure our Rochester community that the Rochester police department will continue to serve and protect our residents and neighborhoods,” Mayor Warren said. “Chief Singletary will remain in charge of the department through the end of the month. We have spoke about maintaining restraint through the ongoing protests we as all involved to remain peaceful.

“I can assure this community I am committed to institutional reforms necessary in our police department. I know that there are many questions, but this just occurred and honestly I do not have all the answers today”

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

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. Deputy Chief Mark Mura will return to the previously held position of captain.

The retirements come on the same day that the Prude family filed a federal civil rights lawsuit Tuesday against the City of Rochester and a number of police officers, alleging an internal cover-up by the RPD and demanding a jury trial in an 82-page document.

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.

Local Black Lives Matter activists have been calling for Singletary to resign since Wednesday, due to his department’s handling of the Daniel Prude death investigation. Singletary said he wouldn’t resign Sunday.

Singletary was promoted to Chief of Police by Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren in April 2019. A Rochester native, and graduate of the Rochester City School District, Singletary has served on the department for 20 years.

A statement release Tuesday from Singletary said:

“After 20 years of dedicated service to the Rochester Police Department and the Rochester Community, I announce my retirement from the Rochester Police Department. For the past two decades, I have served this community with honor, pride, and the highest integrity.

As a man of integrity, I will not sit idly by while outside entities attempt to destroy my character. The events over the past week are an attempt to destroy my character and integrity. The members of the Rochester Police Department and the Greater Rochester Community know my reputation and know what I stand for.

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.

I would like to thank the men and women of the Rochester Police Department, as well as the Rochester Community for allowing me the honor of serving as your Chief and fulfilling a lifelong dream. I look forward to continuing to serve our community in my next chapter.”

Deputy Chief Morabito also released a statement Wednesday:

“Today, after almost 34 years of dedicated service to the Rochester Police Department and the Rochester Community, I announce my retirement from the Rochester Police Department. It has been my extreme honor to serve with and lead the most dedicated law enforcement professionals in the country.

It has also been my honor to serve this community through these many years; a community I was born and raised in, and deeply love. I have often reflected on my time growing up in this City, and the many friends and neighbors who helped guide me and encouraged my decision to become an officer. I have never regretted that decision, and the people who I have had the privilege of assisting throughout my service, and will always consider my membership with the Rochester Police Department as one of the proudest achievements of my lifetime.”

Monroe County Sheriff Todd Baxter issued a statement regarding the change in RPD leadership:

“Today law enforcement in this community suffered a shockwave with the announcement of the impending retirement and reassignment of the command staff at the Rochester Police Department. As your sheriff, I want to reassure the community that we remain steadfast in providing our public safety function.

I have spoken with the County Executive, the Mayor, Chief Singletary and Chief VanBrederode, President Monroe County Chief’s Association, and I have offered our steadfast support to the leadership and members of the Rochester Police Department through this period of transition. I want to ensure the community that you are still going to be safe and we are going to provide any public safety the city and this county needs.”

The Rochester Police Locust Club issued a statement that was critical of the mayor’s office:

“The events that have unfolded today have taken us completely by surprise, as they have everyone else. What is clear is that the problems of leadership go directly to the Mayor’s office. Our priority now is on the dedicated men and woman, who despite unprecedented challenges, continue to do a very difficult job. 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.”

The president also weighed in on the situation in Rochester, tweeting about the city for the second time in two days:

Free the People ROC, a local Black Lives Matter group, celebrated the news Tuesday, posting on Facebook:

“We accept Police Chief La’Ron Singletary’s resignation and the resignations of the entire RPD Command Team. Our movement for justice is winning, and it’s because of this incredible community, showing up night after night.

Let’s keep the pressure up until all those responsible for Daniel Prude’s murder and cover up—including Mayor Lovely Warren—have resigned, taken responsibility, and donated their pensions to the families they allowed to be harmed. Together we have the ability to hold those in power accountable and bring an end to systemic police violence in our community.”

Monroe County District Attorney Sandra Doorley chimed in on Twitter:

Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce CEO Bob Duffy’s Statement on Retirement of Rochester Police Chief La’Ron Singletary

“While we don’t yet have all of the facts surrounding Daniel Prude’s death, Chief Singletary’s retirement creates a void at a time when strong leadership is badly needed. Building trust between police and the community has never been more critical and we have to ensure we have the right people in both the police department and City Hall to make real and lasting progress. Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce remains committed to making our community as strong as it can possibly be, and we stand ready to assist with repairing the deep divides that have been caused by this most recent tragedy.”

Prude, a 41-year-old Black man from Chicago, died after an encounter with Rochester police back in March, but news of the incident just came to light Wednesday, and now the case is being investigated by the New York State Attorney General’s Office.

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

The autopsy report from the Monroe County Medical Examiner’s Office ruled the death of Prude a homicide. The report says Prude’s cause of death includes “complications of asphyxia in the setting of physical restraint.” The report also showed that Prude also 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 to the incident: Officers Mark Vaughn, Troy Taladay, Paul Ricotta, Francisco Santiago, Andrew Specksgoor, Josiah Harris, and Sgt. Michael Magri.

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

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

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