Rochester police chief resigns after black man killed by officers

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Rochester City Police Chief La’Ron Singletary abruptly resigned Tuesday after days of protests in the streets and accusations of hiding the death of a black man at the hands of the police. Daniel Prude, 41, was immobilized on the ground by seven policemen who covered his head with a hood. The events took place on March 23, but a video obtained by the family about the moment in which Prude is reduced was made public last week.

Prude’s death occurred on March 30, a week after his arrest, when he was disconnected from the artificial respiration that was keeping 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 suffocation within the framework of physical domination.” He also detected a low level of the hallucinogenic drug PCP in Prude’s blood.

The mayor of Rochester, Lovely Warren, was surprised on Tuesday by the departure of Singletary and his number two, Joseph Morabito. In Warren’s opinion (black like Singletary), the police chief did a “great job” changing the culture of the body in Rochester and insisted that at no point did he try to cover up Prude’s death.

“The actions I took after the death of Mr. Prude have been politicized and misinterpreted, they are not based on facts,” Singletary said in the statement announcing his resignation. The 40-year-old, now a former police chief, assures that he is “a man of integrity” and denounced that there are “external forces” that seek to discredit him. The police officers in charge of Prude’s arrest continued to work for months, until the family called a press conference last week after obtaining the video of what happened.

Following the release of the video, New York State Attorney General Letitia James said Prude’s death was “a tragedy” and announced the opening of an investigation into the case. Last Saturday, James, who is also African American, announced that he would convene a grand jury to decide whether or not to blame the police.

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 naked down 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.

When Prude’s death came to light, Rochester became the latest chapter in many other cities to experience riots and violence on their streets protesting the deaths of other African Americans at the hands of the police, as was the case in George Floyd last May.

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