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RPD Charges Officer Vaughn in Prude Case; Releases Timeline of Final Hours

Patti Singer

Joe Prude, left, in his home March 22, 2020 with his brother Daniel, who was in emotional distress. Still taken from Rochester Police video “Timeline of the Mr. Daniel Prude Investigation

The day after the Rochester Police Department announced it planned to charge Officer Mark Vaughn in connection with the March 23, 2020 incident with Daniel Prude, it released a 23-minute, 38-second video of actions and encounters in his final hours.

The “Timeline of the Mr. Daniel Prude Investigation” includes footage that was used in the state Attorney General investigation into Mr. Prude’s death. The video is culled from four hours of raw footage, according to a news release from the Rochester Police Department.

The video came out at around 4 p.m. Sept. 24, less than 24 hours after RPD issued a brief news release that had no details of the charge or charges against Vaughn.

In the Sept. 23 release about Vaughn, RPD said “Conflict Counsel has determined potential grounds for legal recourse … .”

Vaughn was served with charges on Sept. 23, according to the release that was sent to media after 7 p.m.

“The Department fully supports Officer Vaughn’s right to due process and to defend himself against the charges, of which no pre-determined outcome has been put in place,” the release stated. “A formal hearing will be scheduled in the future.”

The entire announcement was 188 words, and more than half of those were about changes the department has made since Prude died while in police custody.

Response to an email sent to RPD’s public information officer seeking more information about the charges against Vaughn came in the late morning of Sept. 24. It said that Chief Cynthia Herriott-Sullivan was working on all the questions “that came storming in. … We will let you know as soon as we can.”

Vaughn and officers Troy Talady and Francisco Santiago encountered Prude as he was in a mental health crisis. During physical restraint of Prude as he lay on the street, Vaughn was in a tripod pose with his hands on the side of Prude’s head.

Prude lost consciousness and was pronounced dead on March 30, 2020.

No other officers have been charged, according to the release. A grand jury investigation led by the state Attorney General did not hand up indictments against any of the officers involved.

The video released on Sept. 24 starts with text explaining that Daniel Prude leaving Chicago to come to Rochester to see his brother Joe and being asked to leave the train in Buffalo because he is smoking. He encounters Cheektowaga police, who take him to a homeless shelter where he calls his brother.

There is audio of a 911 call at about 6:52 p.m. March 22 for a person who is hallucinating from drug use and the first encounter that officers have with Daniel Prude. There is a frame explaining Mr. Prude’s experience at Strong Memorial Hospital.

The video then shows RPD body camera footage from the officer who responded to Joe Prude’s call after his brother abruptly left the house.

At the 7:06 mark, the video cuts to security and blue light camera footage that pick up Daniel Prude on West Main Street around 2 a.m. March 23. It shows him breaking a window of a cell phone store, continuing down Main Street to Jefferson Avenue, where he is running down the street. There is footage from a civilian who encountered Daniel Prude and asks if he wants him to call police.

Daniel Prude had walked about a mile before he comes in contact with police at 427 Jefferson Ave.

At about 13 minutes, the video shows body camera footage from one of the officers who encountered Mr. Prude and captures his stream of chatter.

At about 17 minutes, the footage shows officers telling Mr. Prude not to get up and they are shown applying the segmenting technique in which his head is held to the ground and his torso is stabilized. An exchange between the officers and EMTs is shown as officers continue to restrain Mr. Prude.

At about 19 minutes into the video, an officer asks, “You good, man?” and a minute or so later says Mr. Prude doesn’t appear to be breathing after he threw up. The video cuts to an EMT instructing to start CPR. The scenes of Mr. Prude being placed on a gurney are redacted as an EMT explains excited delirium in relation to drug use and “that’s why he coded. … “

The final frame of the video is text citing the cause of death as “complications of asphyxia in the setting of physical restraint due to excited delirium due to acute phencyclidine intoxication.”

The release about Vaughn went on to say it “remains wholeheartedly committed to reform efforts and taking the necessary action to ensure trust and transparency with the community we are sworn to serve and protect.”

It gave examples of crisis intervention, new officer training programs, formal protest response plan and four revised policies. Those policies, or general orders, are a duty for officers to intervene if they see a violation of RPD policies, a ban on chokeholds, mental health detention and de-escalation. General orders relating to a revision on use of force and a new policy on use of force for juveniles are scheduled to take effect in coming weeks or months.