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Daniel Prude’s Estate Files Civil Rights Lawsuit Over His Death

Patti Singer

Protesters gather in front of City Hall Sept. 3, 2020, seeking answers regarding Daniel Prude’s death at the hands of Rochester Police. File photo

The administrator of Daniel Prude’s estate has brought a civil rights lawsuit against the city and 14 members of the Rochester Police Department, challenging “the unlawful municipal policies, practices and customs carried out against Mr. Prude … causing his death.”

Tameshay Prude brought the suit in U.S. District Court.

The suit names the city of Rochester and the following RPD members as defendants: La’Ron Singletary, Mark L. Simmons, Henry C. Favor, Michael Perkowski, Mark Vaughn, Troy Taladay, Francisco Santiago, Michael Magri, Andrew Specksgoor, Paul Ricotta, Josiah Harris, Flamur Zenelovic, Michael Houlihan amd Randy Benjamin.

Singletary is chief, Simmons is a deputy chief and Favor is commander of the Special Operations Division. All have announced their retirement. Singletary’s last day was anounced as Sept. 29.

Perkowski is commanding officer of the Major Crimes Unit. Vaughn, Taladay, Santiago, Magri, Specksgoor, Ricotta and Harris were the officers who responded to the 911 call. Vaughn, Taladay and Santiago had are alleged to have used force.

Zenelovic, Houlihan and Benjamin are investigators.

The suit requests a jury trial and seeks compensatory and punitive damages, awards of costs and attorney’s fees and other relief deemed by the court. No amount was given. The suit also seeks a federal monitor to oversee reforms in how the city investigates incidents involving force and ensuring that officers who use force without justification are disciplined.

The suit alleged the city and police department covered up the death and refused to discipline the officers. It said the death was caused by “the policy, practice and customs of the City and RPD that condones and encourages officers to use excessive force as a matter of course … . “

The suit also alleged that Prude’s death was “caused by the City and RPD’s deliberate indifference to the widespread and longstanding unconstitutional policy, practice and custom of officers using excessive force against individuals suffering from mental illnesses, both chronic and acute.”

It said the RPD does not provide training in how to “safely and lawfull interact with individuals suffering from chronic or acute mental illness. … The City and RPD were aware of the longstanding and widespread problem of its officers using excessive force against individuals during “mental health” arrests but failed to take any remedial action. The City’s deliberate indifference caused Mr. Prude’s death.”

The lawsuit stated that the medical examiner’s report issued on April 22, 2020, concluded the death was a homicide, caused by “complications of asphyxia in the setting of physical restraint.”

The suit said that an official report issued April 27, 2020, from the RPD Major Crimes Unit concluded that the involved officers acted appropriately and in accordance with their training.

The lawsuit described the scene when officers encountered Prude on March 23, 2020 and what happened in the following minutes. “Mr. Prude was in the midst of an acute, manic, psychotic episode,” it stated. “Mr. Prude was unarmed, naked and suffering. He needed help.”

The suit also gave a timeline of what happened with the RPD investigation after Prude was taken off life support on March 30.

The suit claims that Prude’s constitutional rights were violated; that supervisors are liable by “failing to properly supervise, train, and discipline their subordinate employees”; by showing indifference to serious medical needs; that the city failed to discipline officers who use excessive force, even when they are captured on video; that the city and RPD show indifference to the rights of individuals suffering from mental illness and acute mental health episodes.