Rochester to pay $12 million to family of Daniel Prude in wrongful death lawsuit

ROCHESTER, N.Y. — The city of Rochester has agreed to pay $12 million to settle a wrongful death suit filed by the family of Daniel Prude, who died after police pinned him to the ground in March 2020.

Rochester Mayor Malik Evans announced the settlement in a press release Thursday morning.

"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," Evans said.

The settlement is not an admission of liability, the court documents show. Almost $4 million of the total $12 million will cover attorney fees.

Prude's death and the perception that city officials tried to cover it up led to weeks of protests, the firing of Rochester's police chief, and a primary election loss by once-popular incumbent Mayor Lovely Warren.

Prude's son Nathaniel McFarland said in a press release Thursday that his father's "only crime was needing help." Prude died while experiencing a severe mental health crisis.

Court documents say that two federal judges were appointed as mediators to arrive at the settlement and the negotiation process took place "...over several months."

Attorneys for Prude’s estate, meanwhile, called for the New York legislature to pass “Daniel’s Law,” a bill that would replace police response to calls for mental health interventions with trained mental health professionals.

“No purely monetary settlement can truly address the fundamental problem of police violence that underlies this tragic case,” Attorney Matthew Piers said in a press release. “Policing in this country must be reformed to be more humane. This is true especially, but not only, in communities of color that are so frequently harmed by systems that purport to serve and protect them.”

What happened to Daniel Prude?

Prude died of asphyxiation in March 2020 after Rochester police officers trying to take him into protective custody pinned him to the ground while restraining him.

Prude's brother had called 911, concerned that Prude was having a severe mental health crisis after taking a hallucinogenic drug. Officers found the 41-year-old man walking naked in the middle of a street just after 3 a.m. on March 23, 2020.

During an 11-minute confrontation, multiple police officers were on the scene, as well as two emergency medical technicians. Force was applied for several minutes to Prude's head and back as he lay on the pavement. He lost consciousness after officers cut off his breathing. Prude was taken to the hospital, where he died a week later.

Daniel Prude died of asphyxiation complications after being pinned to the ground by police in Rochester, New York.
Daniel Prude died of asphyxiation complications after being pinned to the ground by police in Rochester, New York.

The incident occurred in March — two months before George Floyd's similar death in Minneapolis touched off nationwide protests — yet it didn't become public until September. A lawyer for Prude's family called a press conference and released video of officers' body-worn cameras showing the deadly encounter. Prude's family and local activists called his death a murder and demanded that the officers involved be fired and charged in his homicide.

FALLOUT: Rochester police officers won't face charges in Prude's death

The revelation of Prude's death and the perception that it had been covered up prompted weeks of public protests, which at times led to violent confrontations with police. Then-Mayor Warren said she had first learned about Prude's death in August, a claim that Rochester police chief La'Ron Singletary disputed.

Singeltary and the members of his command staff submitted their resignations a week after Prude's death was revealed. Warren fired Singeltary before his resignation was scheduled to take effect.

A six-month fact-finding investigation into the city's handling of the Prude case ultimately blamed Warren for keeping the matter under wraps — and concluded she then misled the public about what she knew, and when.

REPORT: Rochester mayor, others lied about handling of Prude case

The Prude controversy was one of several factors that led to Warren's loss in the mayoral primary a few months later. Singeltary has since launched a campaign for Congress.

New York Attorney General Letitia James presented the case to a grand jury, which declined to bring charges against any of the officers involved in the death of Prude. One officer, Mark Vaughn, faced departmental charges for unnecessary and/or excessive force and discourteous/unprofessional conduct.

BACKGROUND: Prude died and it was ruled a homicide. So why isn't it a crime?

This article originally appeared on Rochester Democrat and Chronicle: Daniel Prude's family settles with Rochester, New York for $12 million