Family of Man Killed by Rochester Police Will Receive $12 Million

Unarmed and naked on a winter night in bitterly cold Rochester, New York, Daniel Prude presented no conceivable deadly threat to police officers who responded to a 911 call about him. Still, officers forced him down and smashed his face against the pavement, suffocating him. Left brain dead, he died a week later at a local hospital.

More than two and a half years after Prude’s death in March 2020, his family will receive justice. The city of Rochester has agreed to pay $12 million to Prude’s family in a settlement of a wrongful death case, according to The New York Times. The city did not admit liability for the killing as part of the agreement.

Prude, who was Black, was reportedly suffering from a mental health crisis and high on PCP when he suddenly ran out of his brother’s house, stark naked, and yelling that he was infected with the coronavirus. The 41-year-old father of five was handcuffed by police officers who arrived on the scene, and then he began to spit on them, according to the Times.

Officers put a hood over Prude’s head and pinned him down until he lost consciousness. He stopped breathing and had to be resuscitated, but he was unable to recover fully. He died about a week after being taken to the hospital. A medical examiner ruled that his death was a homicide, caused by “complications of asphyxia in the setting of physical restraint,” with his “excited delirium” and drug intoxication being contributing factors.

Worse still, there were allegations that Rochester officials tried to cover up the circumstances of Prude’s death. The New York Times reported that documents showed a pattern of delay tactics intended to prevent the public from knowing what really happened that night. For instance, someone wrote “make him a suspect” in a police report of the incident, scribbling the words in red over a box labeled “victim type.”

Prude’s family spent more than five months fighting for access to body camera footage that showed how he was killed. An independent report commissioned by the Rochester City Council found that police and other city officials had purposefully withheld details about the incident out of fear that it would cause civil unrest.

The murder of George Floyd, a Black man, by Minneapolis cops in May 2020 prompted a surge of protests throughout the country over police brutality and especially the killing of unarmed Black and Brown men. Despite the heightened consciousness, unjustified police killings in the U.S. have continued.

There have also been many reports of police and city officials attempting to delay disclosure of incidents or cover them up out of fear of sparking comparisons to Floyd, who was also suffocated by police officers while being pinned to the ground. Officer Derek Chauvin, who was convicted in the killing, knelt on Floyd’s neck for a reported 9 minutes and 29 seconds while arresting him for using a suspected counterfeit $20 bill.

An investigation by the New York state attorney general’s office was also launched into Prude’s death, but no criminal charges were brought against any of the officers involved.

If you feel that you or a loved one was a victim of police brutality and or excessive use of force, it’s important to have an attorney on your side. Police and city officials fight hard to protect their reputations and may sometimes try to silence or intimidate victims. At the Santana Law Firm, we have experienced lawyers who can help.