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Daniel Prude: Rochester officials have deliberately delayed the release of body cam videos

The documents also contain other examples of possible attempts by police and city officials to control the narrative of Prude’s death in custody.

A family lawyer from Prude’s request for body camera footage sparked an effort by city and police officers to slow the release of the tape showing officers kneeling on Prude and holding him back.

Elliot Shields, an attorney for Prude’s brother, filed an application under the Freedom of Information Act on the footage on April 3. The footage was only released on August 12th.

The records indicate that following the email, the city’s lawyers spoke to Rochester police officers and a lawyer in the New York attorney general̵

7;s office to deny or delay the request.

“I wonder if we shouldn’t hold back a little when we think about what’s going on across the country,” a police officer wrote on June 4th in an email to a city lawyer for then Chief La’Ron Singletary and current incumbent boss Mark Simmons.

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“We certainly don’t want people to misinterpret the actions of the officers and link this incident to the recent national law enforcement murders of unarmed black men,” Simmons wrote. “I urge you to contact the Corporation Council and ask them to decline the motion on the grounds that the case is still active, as there is an ongoing investigation into whether the AG’s office may be bringing criminal charges.”

“I totally agree,” Singletary replied.

The footage, released to the public two weeks ago, shows officials handcuffing a naked Prude and covering his head with a “spit sock” after he claimed he had coronavirus and was spitting. The officers hold him and push him to the ground in a prone position, as the video shows.

Prude stopped breathing and was pronounced brain dead in a hospital, where he died a week later on March 30th.

The Monroe County Medical Examiner eventually decided Prude’s death was murder, citing complications of asphyxiation with restraint. The report also cites agitated delirium and acute PCP intoxication as factors contributing to the immediate cause of death.

Allegations of cover-up

The release of this footage two weeks ago sparked protests in Rochester and allegations of cover-up. On Monday, the day the city released the documents, Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren pushed the chief of police off before he retired and suspended two other city officials.

“That first look revealed what so many have suspected we have a pervasive problem in the Rochester Police Department,” Warren said in a press release. “One who looks at everything through the eyes of the Badge and not with the citizens we serve. It shows that the death of Mr. Prude was not taken as seriously as it should have been by those who have the case throughout City government examined at all levels. “

In a statement last week announcing his resignation, Singletary said the public was misinformed about what he did.

“Members of the Rochester Police Department and the Greater Rochester Community know my reputation and what I stand for,” said Singletary. “The misrepresentation and politicization of the measures I took after I was informed about the death of Mr. Prude is not based on facts and is not what I stand for.”

Last week, Prude’s sister filed lawsuits against Singletary, 13 other officials, and New York City in federal court, alleging a partial death cover-up by the department. Neither Singletary nor the city responded to requests for comment on the litigation.

Simmons, the acting boss, didn’t respond to CNN’s request for comment on Wednesday.

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New York’s Freedom of Information Act allows state agencies to withhold documents if their disclosure would interfere with an ongoing investigation or compromise a confidential informant.

Shields, the family attorney, was able to view the police footage in the attorney general’s office in mid-July but was not given a copy.

In an email dated June 3 between Rochester Police, Lt. Michael Perkowski, and Rochester District Attorney Stephanie Price, said Perkowski that an attorney in the AG’s office “may be able to help by allowing the plaintiff’s attorney to view the material on the body-worn camera without releasing it.” to buy some time before we have to publish this. “

On Wednesday, New York Attorney General Letitia James’s office issued a statement to CNN in defense of her office.

“At no point in the course of this investigation has any attorney general instructed the City of Rochester or the Rochester Police Department to withhold any information.

“For weeks the city and the police force have been running a deeply disturbing and misleading campaign to cover their tracks and get out of account rather than focus on the real problem. As we have been since April, our office will . ” continue to work tirelessly, without the distraction, to provide the answers the Prude family and the Rochester community deserve. “

“Make Him a Suspect”

In an incident report filed by police officers, Daniel Prude's name is next to a handwritten note that reads:

Additionally, the documents show at least two instances of changes being made to reports relating to the incident that led to Prude’s death.

Two incident reports submitted by police officers appear to have been edited in red pen in documents published by the city. It is unclear who made these handwritten notes or when they were actually made. In an incident report filed by Officer Mark Vaughn, Prude’s name appears in the victim box among many prosaic changes.

Prude’s name is circled in red next to a large handwritten note: “Make him a suspect.”

A similar note is attached to a report by Officer Paul Ricotta who responded to a burglar alarm at 3:10 a.m.

“List Daniel Prude as [Suspect]”It reads with a red pen.” Add Burglary – Video recorded during the daytime shows [suspect] Break window and enter location. “

Prude’s body cameras include officials speculating whether Prude (referred to as “Mr. PCP”) might be the person responsible for a broken window in a T-Mobile store. The original report listed the suspect as “unknown”.

Mike Mazzeo, president of the Rochester Police Union, told CNN on Wednesday that he did not know who wrote the handwritten revisions to police reports but said it was customary to revise reports before they were finalized. He pointed out that the reports in question were not approved by a manager.

An undated follow-up report from the Rochester Department of Serious Crimes said, “Several reports have been rejected for revision,” but it does not clarify which reports or revisions are.

Try speaking to the doctor’s office

The documents also reveal an email exchange following Prude’s death at Strong Memorial Hospital where Lt. Before Prude’s autopsy, Perkowski tried to speak to the medical examiner’s office.

“I envision your office doing the autopsy,” Perkowski wrote on March 31st to Julie Luedke, the confidential assistant to the Monroe County’s medical examiner. “Can you and I have a conversation before you start?”

“It’s a bit sensitive as he was in police custody when he was taken to the hospital,” Perkowski continued. “I was there and have all the details for you.”

In response, Luedke asked for the relevant incident reports, which Perkowski said were on their way. Then he said again that he had “background information” and offered to meet with the medical examiner. Luedke replied that she would call Perkowski.

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The Monroe County Medical Examiner eventually decided Prude’s death was murder. CNN has asked the medical examiner’s office for comment.

Mazzeo, the president of the police union, said this was likely a standard interaction.

“A medical examiner needs to have the information and determine a lot of information based on the context of what happened,” he said.

“I didn’t see any of these emails until they were released. But I tell you that the medical examiner always wants this type of information and serious crime to work hand in hand with the ME office in a murder or investigation.”

Mazzeo said the union will represent the officials involved in the case and plans to reveal the names of those lawyers as early as Friday.

He also acknowledged the missteps of the police and city leaders.

“I’m shocked and I have no reason why they handled it like that. And apparently the boss paid the price for it, but I tend to think there are way too many fall people here. And we don’t really get it. ” to the root of the problem, “he said.

“Why would any of us want to go through what we’re going through now? You know, public trust is important and it’s very difficult in policing anyway. Why make stupid mistakes or treat things like that. It doesn’t make sense And leadership should be questioned. “

CNN’s Eric Levenson contributed to this report.

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