“Make it look suspicious”: this is how the police tried to cover up the details of the death of African American Daniel Prude in Rochester

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More than 323 pages of official documentation prove that the authorities knew that his detention did not conform to the rules

“The actions I took after the death of Mr. Prude have been politicized and misinterpreted, they are not based on facts,” La’Ron Singletary said last week in the statement announcing his resignation. The 40-year-old, now a former police chief, claimed that he was “a man of integrity” and denounced that there are “external forces” that seek to discredit him. And yet, the publication of a series of internal documents has just revealed that the Police Department of the city of Rochester (State of New York) spent months trying to cover up a case of police violence without the video in which it was made public. Daniel Prude, a 41-year-old African American, was immobilized to the ground by seven policemen who covered his head with a hood.

The events occurred on March 23, and Prude died a week later in the hospital as a result of the assault. The police tried to pigeonhole Prude as a man with mental problems, to the point that one of the officers connected to his brutal arrest wrote in the police report in big red letters: “Make him look suspicious.”

While the streets of Rochester remained at peace, other cities in the country experienced riots due to the death at the hands of the police of African American citizens under the slogans of the Black Lives Matter. The city authorities, according to those documents, wanted the town not to enter the spiral of violence and protests if the circumstances of Prude’s death were known.

“We don’t want people to get the wrong impression of the agents’ actions [a pesar de que las imágenes de la detención de Prude son muy perturbadoras] and let this incident be equated with the recent deaths of unarmed black men at the hands of the police nationwide, ”a Police Department subordinate wrote in an email to his boss. “We would be facing a false narrative and it could create animosity and potentially violent attacks within our community as a result.”

The advice was most obvious: “That the lawyers for the family of Prude not have access to the video recorded by one of the agents.” The chief of police responded swiftly and within minutes: “I totally agree.”

This exchange of views took place on June 4 and is part of many other documents that have been made public that clearly show that the police chief, La’Ron Singletary, and other prominent city officials did everything they could. it was in his power to keep the troublesome video of the incident out of public scrutiny and thus avoid protests and public anger over Prude’s death. However, the family ended up having access to the images.

Prude’s death occurred on March 30, a week after his arrest, when he was disconnected from the artificial respiration that kept him alive in the hospital. The broadcast of the video, recorded by the body camera of one of the policemen, shows a new episode of police violence that led to the suspension of the agents involved and that, finally, the head of the police chief was claimed. The autopsy determined that Prude’s death was a homicide caused by “complications of asphyxiation in the context of physical domination.” He also detected a low level of the hallucinogenic drug PCP in Prude’s blood.

On March 23, Joe Prude, Daniel’s brother, called the emergency number for help because the man – originally from Chicago and who was visiting for a few days – was behaving strangely due to problems related to his mental health. A truck driver also called the same number to report that a black man was walking naked on the street, walking through the snow, trying to open cars and shouting that he was infected with coronavirus. The police arrived at the scene and detained Prude, handcuffing her hands behind her back. He allegedly threatened the policemen who wanted to reduce him by spitting on them and infecting them. “I called for my brother to be helped, not to be lynched,” Joe Prude said in the presentation of the video in which the family asked that the police be charged with homicide.

The documents now released contain 323 pages of internal investigation into the death of this African American and the actions that the city should take in the coming days. Earlier this month, the city’s mayor, Lovely Warren, suspended all seven officers related to Prude’s arrest from employment and pay.


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