The police chief and deputy chief of Rochester, New York, resigned Tuesday amid outrage over the death of Daniel Prude, a Black man with mental health issues who died after being put in a “spit hood” and restrained by officers in March.
Rochester Police Chief La’Ron Singletary announced he would be retiring Tuesday after 20 years on the police force, according to a media release from the department. Singletary said the events of 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,” Singletary’s resignation said. “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.”
Deputy Police Chief Joseph Morabito also announced his retirement on Tuesday.
Relatives of Prude, 41, released police videos of the March 23 encounter on Wednesday and Thursday and claimed that they show that officers used excessive force. Prude died of “complications of asphyxia in the setting of physical restraint,” with the drug PCP listed as a contributing factor, according to an autopsy report released by the family from Monroe County Medical Examiner Nadia Granger.
Prude’s brother, Joe Prude, said he had mental health and drug problems and had been acting out on March 22. Joe Prude called 911 that day, and Daniel Prude was hospitalized for about three hours for a mental health check.
The videos show when officers found Prude naked in the middle of a street, shortly after 3 a.m. March 23. Prude complied with orders to get on the ground face down and put his hands behind his back, the video shows.
While handcuffed, Prude seemed to be speaking in a nonsensical manner, at one point asking officers for a gun, according to the videos. Police said the officers placed a spit hood on Prude, 41, because he said he had COVID-19.
At one point, it appeared Prude stopped breathing. Paramedics tried to revive him, and he was put on life support at a hospital, but he died seven days later.
Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren announced Thursday that seven officers had been suspended, and New York Attorney General Letitia James said Saturday that she has empowered a state grand jury to investigate Prude’s death.
Michael Mazzeo, president of the Rochester Police Locust Club, the union representing city officers, said Friday that his members had been told for months that they did nothing wrong.
Reporters questioned Singletary about a possible resignation during a press conference Sunday, but the chief said only that reports of his resignation were a “rumor” and that he had not been asked to step down.
Rochester has been the subject of protests for days as demonstrators criticized the delay in public information about Prude’s detainment and death. Amid questions on if Singletary withheld information from the mayor as the investigation into his death continued, the chief said Sunday he provided information as it became available to him amid a criminal and internal investigation into the case.
Warren said on Sunday that the chief had her full support. She backed up Singletary’s account and said Sunday that the chief called her following Prude’s detainment on March 23, but admitted she was not aware of the autopsy report in April.
“He handled it the way he needed to handle it internally,” Warren said. “So when he made the call to me, it was the information he had at that time and then he did what he needed to do on the back end.”
The mayor added that she was made aware of the video by the city’s law department on August 4 and that the chief did “everything possible” to get justice for the Prude family. Warren also announced police reforms on Sunday, spurred by the death of Prude, saying the city’s crisis intervention team would be moved out of the police department.