The city of Rochester, New York, has reached a $12 million settlement with the estate of Daniel Prude, who died in 2020 in police custody.
Prude’s son sued the city in federal court alleging gross negligence and wrongful death.
“After more than two years, the City of Rochester has entered into a settlement agreement with the estate of Daniel Prude,” Mayor Malik D. Evans said in a statement.
“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,” the statement added.
Elliot Shields, an attorney for the Prude family, said only Prude’s children will receive money from the settlement.
“No amount of money can bring Daniel Prude back. No amount of money can make sure this doesn’t happen again,” Shields said.
“There is still much work to be done to reform the Rochester Police Department and make systemic changes, but we are pleased that his children will be 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 “spit sock” and held him on the ground in a prone position. Prude was taken to a hospital, declared brain dead and died a week later.
“Now is the time to look forward so we can work together and focus our efforts on Rochester’s future,” Malik added.
The police delayed the statement from the city.
Prude’s death – two months before George Floyd died in similar circumstances – became part of a movement against police violence against black people. Protests erupted in Rochester after the body camera footage was released.
His death also raised questions about how police respond to cases involving people in mental crisis. Police are often the first to respond to reports of someone acting erratically, and they occasionally use police tactics or force in their response.
Prude’s death was ruled a homicide by the Monroe County Medical Examiner. The report cited complications of asphyxia associated with physical restraint. The report also cited excited delirium and acute PCP poisoning as causes of death.
A grand jury voted in February 2021 not to indict any officers in Prude’s death.
In September 2021, the city released 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 contained examples of possible attempts by police and city officials to control the narrative surrounding Prude’s death.
There were at least two instances where changes were made to reports related to the incident that led to Prude’s death.
Two incident reports filed by police officers appeared to be redacted in the documents released by the city. It was unclear who made these handwritten notes or when they were made. In an incident report, Prude’s name is written in the space marked “Victim”.
Prude’s name is circled in red next to a large handwritten note: “Make him a suspect.”