Rochester officials tried for months to stall the release of body camera footage showing Daniel Prude’s fatal encounter with police, documents show

  • Daniel Prude died on March 30, a week after police in Rochester, New York, put a spit hood over his head and held him to the ground until he became unconscious.
  • Documents show law-enforcement leaders discussing footage of Daniel Prude's fatal encounter with police, saying they feared "blow back" from the community.
  • The documents were part of the city's internal review released earlier this week.
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Rochester police officers urged city officials to withhold body camera footage of Daniel Prude's fatal encounter with officials, according to internal emails released as part of an internal investigation into the incident.

In a report on the internal investigation released earlier this week, Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren said Chief La'Ron Singletary, who she fired on Monday, "did not immediately recognized the significance" of Prude's death.

Prude died on March 30, a week after police put a spit hood over his head and held him to the ground until he became unconscious. Prude's brother has said he called 911 because Prude was experiencing a mental health crisis.

Video of the incident was finally released to the public on September 4, more than five months after Prude's death.

In the city's review of the incident, investigators gathered more than 300 pages of emails and documents in which police officers and officials discussed Prude's death.

Documents show Deputy Police Chief Mark Simmons, who is now the city's acting police chief, advising Singletary to deny Prude's family's lawyer access to body camera footage.

"We certainly do not want people to misinterpret the officers' actions and conflate this incident with any recent killings of unarmed black men by law enforcement nationally," Simmons wrote. "That would simply be a false narrative, and could create animosity and potentially violent blow back in this community as a result."

Lt. Mike Perkowski said in another email that he was "very concerned" about releasing the body camera footage "in light of what is going on," referencing ongoing protests following the death of George Floyd, who died after a police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.

In other emails, officials say they're denying requests for the video because of health privacy laws and ongoing investigations.

Prude's family lawyer eventually obtained the video, and released it to the public in early September.

In her report on the internal investigation, Mayor Warren said she was not aware of police footage of the incident until August 4.

She criticized the video and actions taken by police, saying they "reveal that the culture of acceptance and insularity is more pervasive than we realized."

In her report she recommended the US Justice Department conduct an investigation.

"It is hard to rationalize how anyone who saw the video of Mr. Prude's encounter with the RPD did not fully equate these events beyond a few mentions of bad publicity, politics, process or a 'false narrative,'" she said.

"Rochester is in desperate need of healing. We lost almost six months of opportunity to begin that process and also have done considerable damage to the good work this City has undertaken to improve the relationships between the police and the public they serve," Warren added.

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