City of Rochester reaches $12 million settlement with Daniel Prude estate over his death in police custody


The city of Rochester, New York, has reached a $12 million settlement with the estate of Daniel Prude, who died in 2020 in police custody.

Prude’s son sued the city in federal court for alleged gross negligence and wrongful death.

“After more than two years, the City of Rochester has come to a settlement agreement with the estate of Daniel Prude,” Mayor Malik D. Evans said in a statement.

“Given the costs of continued litigation, this settlement was the best decision. It would have cost taxpayers even more to litigate, and would have placed a painful toll on our community,” the statement added.

Elliot Shields, an attorney for the Prude family, said only Prude’s children will receive money from the settlement.

“No amount of money can bring back Daniel Prude. No amount of money can ensure this won’t happen again,” Shields said.

“There is still a lot of work to be done to reform the Rochester Police Department and make systemic changes, but we’re happy his children will be compensated and can move forward with their lives.”

Prude, a 41-year-old Black man, died in March 2020. He was having a mental episode when officers handcuffed him, covered his head with a “spit sock” and held him on the ground in a prone position. Prude was taken to a hospital, declared brain-dead and died a week later.

“It is now time to look forward, so we may work together and focus our efforts on Rochester’s future,” Malik added.

The police department deferred to the statement from the city.

Prude’s death – two months before George Floyd died under similar circumstances – became part of a movement against police violence toward Black people. Protests erupted in Rochester after the body camera footage was released.

His death also raised questions about how police respond to cases involving people in a mental health crisis. Police are often the first to respond to reports of a person acting erratically, and they occasionally use police tactics or force in their response.

Prude’s death was ruled a homicide by the Monroe County medical examiner. The report cited complications of asphyxia in the setting of physical restraint. The report also cited excited delirium and acute PCP intoxication as causes of death.

A grand jury voted in February 2021 to not indict any officers for Prude’s death.

In September 2021, the city released 325 pages of internal emails, police reports and other documents showing a concerted effort by police and city officials to delay the release of incriminating body camera footage.

The documents included examples of possible attempts by police and city officials to control the narrative around Prude’s death.

There were at least two instances in which changes were made to reports related to the incident which led to Prude’s death.

Two incident reports filed by police officers appeared, in the documents released by the city, to have been edited with red pencil. It was unclear who made these handwritten notes or when they were made. In one incident report, Prude’s name is written in the space labeled “Victim.”

Prude’s name is circled in red, next to a large, handwritten note: “Make him a suspect.”

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