Investigators examining how the city of Rochester handled the Prude case revealed on Friday that officials had knowingly suppressed information regarding both the arrest and death.
In an 80-page report, special investigator Andrew Celli noted that Mayor Lovely Warren, then-Police Chief La’Ron Singletary, Corporation Counsel Timothy Curtin, and Communications Director Justin Roj all knew about Prude's death, and had failed to disclose the incident prior to the September news conference held by Prude's family.
The report states that by mid-April 2020, the four Rochester city officials "had learned that [Rochester Police Department] officers had physically restrained Daniel Prude during the course of an arrest on March 23, 2020; that the restraint had caused Mr. Prude’s death; and that the officers were the subjects of a criminal investigation."
"None of this was disclosed to the public before the Prude family’s September 2 news conference,” the report highlights.
Although the release of body camera footage was delayed over a variety of procedural reasons, Celli's investigation also found that senior officials with the Rochester Police Department, including Singletary, had purposely held off on the video release. Celli determined the halt was over concerns that the release "might cause civil unrest and violence" similar to that seen after the killing of Minnesota resident George Floyd, who died after an officer kneeled on his neck.
Additionally, Celli's probe highlighted a variety of statements made to the public by Warren, Singletary and Curtin after the family's September conference that were false. Among those false statements were claims that the office of the attorney general had issued instructions to the city to not disclose any facts surrounding the case.
The report further states that during conversations in April 2020 between Singletary, Warren, senior police department officials and the city's communication department, the former police chief acknowledged the March incident, but "consistently deemphasized the role of police restraints in the death of Daniel Prude, and his statements did not capture the disturbing tenor of the entire encounter."
Incidentally, after Warren watched the body camera footage and sought to publicly disclose the arrest, the report states that Curtin had "actively discouraged" her from doing so.
A statement released by Celli underscores that the investigation found that there was no reasonable explanation for decisions the city of Rochester took in the wake of Prude's death.
“Did officials of City government suppress information about the arrest and death of Daniel Prude between March 23, 2020, when the arrest occurred, and September 2, 2020, when the Prude family publicly released body-worn camera footage of the incident?" Celli wrote.
"The straightforward answer is yes. The investigation revealed no explanation that fully accounts for the more than four-month delay between the death of an unarmed man at the hands of Rochester police, and public disclosure of the facts and circumstances under which the death occurred — other than a decision or series of decisions not to make such disclosure.“
The latest development came days after Prude's children announced a federal lawsuit against the city of Rochester, accusing both the city and its police department of violating their father's civil rights and attempting to "cover-up" the incident. Earlier, a grand jury in February declined to bring criminal charges against the officers involved in Prude's death.