The city of Rochester, New York, has reached a $12 million settlement with the estate of Daniel Prude, who died in 2020 in custody.
prude’s son sued the city in federal court for alleged gross negligence and wrongful death.
“After more than two years, the City of Rochester has reached a settlement agreement with the Estate of Daniel Prude,” Mayor Malik D. Evans said in a statement.
“Given the costs of ongoing litigation, this settlement was the best decision. It would have cost taxpayers even more to pursue legal action and exacted a heavy toll on our community,” the statement added.
Elliot Shields, a lawyer for the Prude family, said only Prude’s children will receive settlement money.
“No amount of money can bring Daniel Prude back. No amount of money can guarantee that it won’t happen again,” Shields said.
“There’s still a lot of work to be done to reform the Rochester Police Department and make systemic changes, but we’re glad her children are compensated and can move on with their lives.”
Prude, a 41-year-old black man, died in March 2020. He was having a mental episode when officers handcuffed him, covered his head with a “spitting sock” and held him down in a lying position. Prude was taken to hospital, declared brain dead, and died a week later.
“Now is the time to look ahead, so that we can work together and focus our efforts on Rochester’s future,” Malik added.
The police department referred to the city’s statement.
Prude’s death – two months before George Floyd died in similar circumstances – was part of a movement against police violence against black people. Protests erupted in Rochester after the body camera footage emerged.
His death also raised questions about how police respond to cases involving people in mental health crisis. The police are often the first to respond to reports of someone acting erratically, and they sometimes use police tactics or force in their response.
Prude’s death was ruled a homicide by the Monroe County Medical Examiner. The report cites complications of asphyxiation in the setting of physical restraint. The report also cites excited delirium and acute PCP poisoning as causes of death.
A grand jury voted in February 2021 not to charge any officers for Prude’s death.
In September 2021, the city published 325 pages of internal emails, police reports and other documents showing a concerted effort by police and city officials to delay the release of incriminating body camera footage.
The documents included examples of possible attempts by police and city officials to control the narrative around Prude’s death.
There have been at least two instances in which changes have been made to reports related to the incident that led to Prude’s death.
Two incident reports filed by police officers appeared, in documents released by the city, to have been touched up in red pencil. It is not known who made these handwritten notes or when they were made. In an incident report, Prude’s name is written in the space labeled “Victim”.
Prude’s name is circled in red, next to a large handwritten note: “Make him a suspect.”