ROCHESTER, N.Y. — The following summary of key events following Daniel Prude’s death was constructed with the aid of public documents, medical records, and comments by Mayor Lovely Warren’s office and city attorneys, as well as a lengthy timeline provided by New York Attorney General Letitia James James’ office.
March 23, 2020
The critical moments occur in the 3 a.m. hour in the southwest part of the city of Rochester. Daniel Prude’s breathing and heartbeat cease after his head and torso are pushed into the pavement for more than two minutes by officers. His heartbeat is restored during transport to Strong Memorial Hospital, and he is admitted to intensive care.
March 30, 2020
Prude, who has no brain function, is disconnected from life support and dies at 8:22 p.m.
April 3, 2020
A lawyer for the Prude family presents the city with a letter to preserve all evidence in the case and an open-records request for all body-worn camera video of the incident and related records.
April 10, 2020
Medical Examiner’s Office notifies the Rochester police it has ruled Prude’s death a homicide. Then-Police Chief, La’Ron Singletary, would relay the cause of death to the city’s communications director as PCP, excited delirium and resisting arrest. That preliminary report identifies the immediate cause of death as “complications of asphyxia in the setting of physical restraint,” listing excited delirium and PCP as contributing factors. The full report is issued April 22. Singletary has said he didn’t receive it until May 13.
April 16, 2020
Monroe County District Attorney Sandra Doorley contacts the Attorney General’s Office as required under a 2015 executive order by Gov. Andrew Cuomo related to in-custody deaths.
April 21, 2020
The Attorney General’s Office officially launches its investigation after a preliminary review to determine it has jurisdiction. The Prude family is notified and invited to meet.
Attorneys with the state office also contact the Monroe County District Attorney’s Office, Rochester Police Department and Prude’s family to alert them of the decision. It is the first time the state takes over a Rochester-based death-in-custody case.
May 25, 2020
George Floyd dies while being restrained by four Minneapolis police officers, one of whom, Derek Chauvin, pressed his knee against Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes. Video shot by bystanders goes viral, placing racial injustice and police brutality in the national spotlight and activating the most sustained and widespread protests in America since the civil rights movement.
The public does not yet know of Daniel Prude’s death two months earlier.
June 4, 2020
This day is at the center of the dispute between the state and city.
In short, the city’s lawyers claim the state’s lawyers directed them not to release body-worn camera footage as it would interfere with their investigation. The state lawyers claim they left it up to the city to decide.
Regardless, that same day, state attorneys offer the Prude family and their lawyer the ability to watch the video, which the Attorney General’s Office says is standard procedure.
June 10, 2020
In response to a USA TODAY Network New York request, the Attorney General’s Office provides a list of cases completed or currently under investigation by its special prosecutions and investigations unit. Prude’s name and the county of his death are included on the list of 38 cases but without any other detail. It isn’t recognized by a reporter — a missed opportunity for the public to learn what had happened.
June 12, 2020
The Attorney General’s Office shows the body-camera video to an attorney for Daniel Prude’s family for the first time and discloses the RPD officers’ names as the footage is shown, according to the agency’s timeline.
July 15, 2020
Warren issues an executive order banning gatherings of five or more people between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. A spike in shootings, several involving multiple victims, was given as the reason for the order, along with concern over spread of COVID-19.
When word of Prude’s death begins circulating among activists a week later, some question whether the two are connected. Also on this day, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signs the order officially granting the attorney general authority to investigate and, if warranted, prosecute law enforcement officers connected to Prude’s death.
Cuomo’s order was pro forma. The state had begun its investigation three months earlier. But the order provided another acknowledgement of the probe, naming Prude. Yet at no point did Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office or James’ office or Rochester officials announce in a news release the investigation or even the fact of Prude’s death. And no journalist or interest group picked up on the existence of Cuomo’s order.
The city order has been continued multiple times and remains in effect.
July 21, 2020
The Prude family and another family attorney watch the video as they meet with the Attorney General’s Office, according to the agency’s timeline.
July 29, 2020
RPD notified that the body-worn camera footage will be provided to the Prude family lawyer within 72 hours.
July 30, 2020
The city receives a notice of claim from a Prude family lawyer, according to that lawyer, Elliot Shields. A notice of claim is a required first step in suing a municipality; the notices typically lay out the accusations on which the full lawsuit will be based.
Aug. 4, 2020
This is the day City Corporation Counsel Tim Curtin said he first saw the body-worn camera video, after it was redacted by police. He said he immediately took it to Warren, interrupting a meeting to do so.
Just after 6 p.m., Municipal Attorney Stephanie Prince emails Sommers asking about the status of the state investigation: “Is it still ongoing?” The response comes back, “Yes — our matter is still continuing. FYI — in an effort to be fully transparent, I have met w (sic) and showed the civil attorneys … the video. I did not give a copy.”
Aug. 12, 2020
The city says it mailed the body-worn camera video to the Prude family lawyer. Receipt of the video and records has been stated as Aug. 20. That is the date City Council member Mary Lupien points to as the day she considered the matter confirmed, having heard details of the case in late July.
Aug. 26, 2020
Seemingly unaware the video has been handed over, RPD Capt. Frank Umbrino emails two colleagues about a meeting with Singletary in which they discussed the case and the timing of the release of the video once there was a ruling from the Attorney General’s Office (but ahead of turning it over to the Prude family). “The feeling from 6th floor is the longer it takes, the better it is,” Umbrino wrote.
Aug. 27, 2020
Lupien receives a still image from the body-worn camera video from Prude family attorney Elliot Shields. Told the family will be making an announcement, she stays silent, and does not alert colleagues — explaining later that she thought they already knew.
Sept. 2, 2020
Prude’s family members, lawyers and activists call a news conference and release the video showing events of March 23. City Council members express outrage at being caught unaware.
Sept. 3, 2020
The city suspends seven officers involved in the Prude case with pay. City Council President Loretta Scott tells the Democrat and Chronicle, part of the USA TODAY Network, that, two weeks prior, Warren had “mentioned we had a notice of claim from someone, the family of someone who had died in custody who had been high on PCP.” Scott said she was told the matter was confidential. Such notices are public record.
Sept. 5, 2020
Attorney General James announces she is impaneling a grand jury to hear evidence in the case, raising the specter of criminal prosecution of the officers involved in restraining Prude more than five months ago.
Sept. 8, 2020
The entire RPD command staff steps down, either relinquishing their rank or, like Singletary, announcing their retirement effective at month’s end.
Sept. 14, 2020
Warren fires Singletary and suspends two senior staffers after Deputy Mayor James Smith sends over a “cursory managerial review” that faults RPD and the staffers’ handling of the Prude case. Smith’s report cites “a culture of insularity, acceptance and, quite frankly, callousness that permeates the Rochester Police Department.”
Sept. 15, 2020
City Council approves hiring outside legal counsel to investigate the city’s handling of the Prude case.
Oct. 1, 2020
Attorneys representing the suspended officers speak publicly for the first time, saying the officers followed protocol and training and asserting that Prude’s use of PCP was the main factor in his death. The medical examiner ruled his death a homicide and listed the immediate cause as “complications of asphyxia in the setting of physical restraint” due to excited delirium and PCP.
Nov. 9, 2020
Officials acknowledge the grand jury has convened to hear evidence against Rochester police officers involved in the Prude case. Who and how many is not known.
Dec. 15, 2020
A limited internal review by the city’s Office of Public Integrity finds no city employees violated policies or ethical standards in the handling of the Prude case. The review was limited to city employees up to and including the mayor, excluding sworn police officers.
Dec. 16, 2020
A Notice of Claim filed by Singletary and dated Dec. 3 becomes public. In it, he alleges the mayor encouraged him to lie to the City Council’s investigators about what he told her and when regarding the officers’ use of force and the medical examiner’s findings.
Feb. 5, 2021
Singletary answers questions for the better part of 10 hours as part of City Council’s investigation into the handling of the Prude case. During the live-streamed deposition he says he saw nothing egregious in the body-worn camera footage from officers at the scene, and maintains he and his command staff handles matters “by the book.”
Feb. 23, 2021
No Rochester police officers will face criminal charges in relation to the death of Daniel Prude in March 2020, New York’s Attorney General Letitia James announced Feb. 23.
The grand jury returned a no bill, meaning that they did not believe there was not enough evidence to indict any of the officers involved.
The Attorney General also produced a 204-page report that included recommendations for additional training for law enforcement, dispatchers and EMS personnel to better recognize Excited Delirium Syndrome, and treat it as a serious medical emergency, one of a total of six suggested.
Follow Brian Sharp on Twitter @sharproc.