Fired Rochester police chief La'Ron Singletary is refusing to cooperate with the probe into the death of black man Daniel Prude, according to the lawy
Fired Rochester police chief La’Ron Singletary is refusing to cooperate with the probe into the death of black man Daniel Prude, according to the lawyer leading the investigation.
Prude, 41, died back in March after cops placed a spit hood over his head and pressed his face into the ground for two minutes in Rochester, New York, while he appeared to be suffering a psychotic episode.
Rochester police and city officials were accused of a cover-up after his death went under the radar until Prude’s family released shocking bodycam video in September showing the arrest of the naked, distressed man.
His cause of death was ruled a suffocation but no charges have been brought against any of the officers involved and an investigation is still ongoing.
Singletary was fired by Mayor Lovely Warren last month days after he and several senior members of the force stood down in their masses following a backlash over Prude’s death.
Fired Rochester police chief La’Ron Singletary (pictured) is refusing to cooperate with the probe into the death of black man Daniel Prude, according to the lawyer leading the investigation
Special Investigator Andrew Celli, Jr. who has been tasked to lead the city’s probe into Prude’s death said Monday the ousted police chief is refusing to testify or provide documents relevant to the investigation.
He said the city council had subpoenaed Singletary earlier this month to provide materials and testimony related to the investigation.
However, Singletary declined claiming he is not bound by a subpoena since – due to his firing – he is no longer employed by the city.
Singletary’s lawyer Michael Tallon wrote in an email to the investigator last week that records sought from Singletary will be preserved but that the former police chief could testify after current city employees such as the mayor have been deposed.
He hit out at the investigation and the city council saying he believes there is a lack of ‘fundamental ethical standards’ as well as concerns around ‘confidentiality and integrity’.
‘I believe that back channel communications that compromise confidentiality and integrity are rife in many organizations and especially those under severe stress. That describes this administration now,’ Tallon wrote.
‘I believe, too, that the disregard of fundamental ethical standards may be pervasive and this laxity has crippled the capacity of the City of Rochester to practice these standards now when they are most crucial to its wellbeing and to its service of all citizens.
‘This stress is deepened when the leading investigative goal is to determine what are the facts and if there was an effort to conceal facts recognizing, too, the prospect that those who may have concealed facts will now endeavor to obstruct the investigation you are charged with conducting.
Prude, 41, (pictured) died back in March after cops placed a spit hood over his head and pressed his face into the ground for two minutes in Rochester, New York, while he appeared to be suffering a psychotic episode
Prude (right) with his brother Joe (left) and sister-in-law Valerie (center). Rochester police and city officials were accused of a cover-up after Prude’s death went under the radar until his family released shocking bodycam video in September
‘I recognize that this may describe this administration now.’
Celli called Singletary’s lack of cooperation ‘unfortunate’ but vowed that it would not hinder the quest for answers around the handling of Prude’s death.
‘Chief Singletary’s refusal to cooperate with the investigation, while very unfortunate, will not materially impede our progress,’ Celli said in a statement.
‘Even as we actively consider remedies for such non-compliance (Including, but not limited to, court enforcement) our work will continue, drawing on the many other sources of documentary evidence and testimony that are available to us.’
The special investigator’s office has subpoenaed several city leaders as part of the investigation, including Mayor Warren and City Council President Loretta C. Scott.
Celli’s office said last week it had received hundreds of thousands of documents from the city as part of the investigation.
Depositions are expected to begin next month.
Singletary, who Warren said initially misled her about the circumstances of the killing, was ousted by Warren in September over his handling of the case and as questions mounted of an alleged cover-up.
Singletary had announced his retirement the week earlier with his last day supposed to be September 29 as he slammed critics for trying to ‘destroy my character and integrity.’
Several other senior police officials also announced they would retire or leave top command positions after they faced a backlash over their handling of Prude’s death.
But Warren said she had relieved Singletary of his duties effective September 21 and announced she had called for a federal investigation.
Footage surfaced in September of Prude, who was suffering mental health issues, being suffocated by police officers in the streets of Rochester nearly six months ago (pictured)
A Rochester police officer holds Daniel Prude’s head down during the deadly encounter
Paramedics arrived as Prude was wrestled to the floor, still wearing the ‘spit hood’
The mayor said she didn’t see the bodycam footage of Prude’s death until August 4 when city lawyers showed her and has accused Singletary of misleading her about the circumstances.
In emails between the pair released last month, Warren told the police chief she was ‘outraged’ and said he ‘grossly underplayed’ Prude’s death by describing it to her as a drug overdose.
She said Mark Vaughn, the cop who pushed Prude’s head into the ground, should have faced an immediate disciplinary investigation and been fired back in March.
‘Quite frankly, I would have expected the Chief of Police to have shown me this video in March,’ Warren wrote in the draft email.
The toned down version sent to Singletary did not include that criticism.
The harrowing video of the incident and circumstances around Prude’s death were kept under wraps for around six months until his family released it in September and accused police of a cover-up.
Emails, police reports and other documents were then released by the city revealing Rochester police commanders had urged city officials to hold off on publicly releasing the footage.
Deputy Chief Mark Simmons cited the ‘current climate’ in the city and the nation in a June 4 email advising Singletary to press the city’s lawyers to deny the Prude family lawyer’s public records request for the footage.
‘We certainly do not want people to misinterpret the officers’ actions and conflate this incident with any recent killings of unarmed black men by law enforcement nationally,’ Simmons wrote.
Special Investigator Andrew Celli, Jr. (left) said Monday Singletary (right) is refusing to testify or provide documents relevant to the investigation. Singletary claims he is not bound by a subpoena since – due to his firing – he is no longer employed by the city
‘That would simply be a false narrative, and could create animosity and potentially violent blowback in this community as a result.’
‘I totally agree,’ Singletary replied, according to the emails.
Simmons was named acting Rochester Police chief for the 30-day period after Singletary along with the city’s entire command staff quit following protests over Prude’s death.
Warren then announced Singletary’s replacement of Cynthia Herriott-Sullivan on September 26.
Herriott-Sullivan, a former lieutenant with the Rochester Police Department, was appointed to the role of interim chief of the addled force from October 14 making her the force’s first ever female police chief.
Warren said Herriott-Sullivan is the right person to mend fractured relations between the community and police department and bring about much-needed changes to law enforcement in the city.
She will start her new role from October 14 and is expected to serve until at least June 2021, when the city hopes to appoint someone permanent to the position.
Rochester police has been rocked by scandal following Prude’s death.
The city’s communications director Justin Roj and city corporation counsel Tim Curtin were also suspended without pay for 30 days.
Daniel Prude, 41, stopped breathing as Rochester police were restraining him
The seven Rochester police officers involved in Prude’s death have been suspended with pay.
These officers are Mark Vaughn, Troy Taladay, Paul Ricotta, Francisco Santiago, Andrew Specksgoor, Josiah Harris and Michael Magri.
However no charges have been brought against the officers.
Earlier this month, lawyers for the officers defended their actions saying they acted ‘flawlessly’ and were being treated ‘unfairly’.
‘There’s no question it’s a tragic situation for Mr. Prude’s family, and there may need to be conversations about training and mental health intervention, but these officers did exactly what they were trained to do and they did it flawlessly,’ a lawyer for officer Mark Vaughn stated.
‘These officers are being mistreated unfairly. Their lives have been threatened, there are bounties placed on their heads,’ a lawyer representing Santiago stated.
The lawyers also claimed a spit hood is easier to breathe in than an N-95F mask for COVID-19.
Meanwhile Mayor Warren was also hit with another scandal this month when she was charged with scheming to defraud and violating election laws relating to her 2017 reelection campaign.
Warren pleaded not guilty to the charges. If convicted, she could be sentenced to up to four years in prison, lose her law license and be removed from office.
This comes after she too has faced calls to resign over Prude’s death.
Protests erupted in Rochester after the video of Prude’s death was finally made public on September 2.
Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren (pictured) fired Singletary last month after he stood down from the force amid protests. She has also faced calls to resign
Cynthia Herriott-Sullivan, a former lieutenant with the Rochester Police Department, was appointed as the interim chief of the addled force (pictured)
Prude’s family released the footage and filed a civil lawsuit against the city, alleging its leaders and police department covered up the details of his death.
The shocking video shows cops covering Prude’s head in a hood and pushing his head into the ground, until he passed out and later died.
Officers had responded to a 911 call from Prude’s brother on March 23 asking for help in dealing with his erratic behavior due to him suffering a mental health episode at the time.
Prude, who had mental health issues, was naked in the street when cops arrived.
They handcuffed him, leaving him undressed, and placed a ‘spit hood’ over his head.
They then pinned him down on the ground, with his face pushed into the pavement, for two minutes.
Prude passed out and died a week later on March 30, when he was taken off life support.
An autopsy from the Monroe County Medical Examiner’s Office ruled his death a homicide caused in part by ‘complications of asphyxia in the setting of physical restraint’.
An investigation has now been launched by the New York State Attorney General’s Office into Prude’s death.
Prude is one in a line of black men and women killed by cops in America in recent months, as protests demanding an end to police brutality and racism build nationwide.
Prude’s family held a vigil in his honor on September 10 in Rochester (pictured)
Protesters on September 6 in Rochester following the public release of footage of Prude’s killing
Demonstrators have been taking to the streets nationwide for months demanding an end to police brutality and systemic racism following the Memorial Day ‘murder’ of George Floyd.
Floyd died back in May after white cop Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes as he begged for air and said ‘I can’t breathe’.
Chauvin and the three other cops involved were fired and charged over the killing.
Last week a judge dismissed the third-degree murder charge against Chauvin but maintained second-degree murder and manslaughter charges.
This came after EMT Breonna Taylor, 26, was shot six times in March when three plainclothes officers performed a botched raid at her Louisville apartment.
Last month, a grand jury decided not to bring any charges against the three cops involved in her death, with only one officer charged in connection to the incident – not for Taylor’s death but for wanton endangerment for shooting into a neighboring apartment.
In June, unarmed father Rayshard Brooks was shot dead while he ran from cops in the drive-thru of a Wendy’s restaurant in Atlanta.
Then, in August, Jacob Blake was shot seven times in the back by a white cop in front of his three young children, leaving the father-of-six paralyzed from the waist down.
In October unarmed black city worker Jonathan Price was shot dead outside a gas station by a white cop in Texas, as he was reportedly trying to break up a domestic incident.
On Thursday night, Mark Matthew Bender Jr., 35, was shot dead by a San Bernardino police officer who was responding to reports of someone jumping on cars.
Bystander cellphone footage shows Bender and the cop struggling on the ground at the 200 block of West Base Line Street outside King Tut Liquor before the officer stands, pulls out his gun and opens fire on the black man.
Police released the bodycam footage from the incident revealing the cop pointed his gun at Bender as soon as he spotted him strolling past the store – as the force defended the officer saying Bender was armed with an unregistered gun.
On Monday afternoon, Walter Wallace, a father who had recently got married, was shot multiple times and killed when officers were called out to reports of a domestic incident in Cobbs Creek, West Philadelphia.
Philadelphia police said Wallace had a knife and didn’t comply with officers’ demands to drop it while the man’s family said he had mental health issues and was on medication.