Cuomo, Schumer: Expedite Prude death probe

Daniel Prude died in police custody in March, a death that only recently came to light

News 10NBC and Rochester Democrat and Chronicle

ROCHESTER — Gov. Andrew Cuomo and U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer is calling for an expedited investigation into the death of Daniel Prude.

Prude, 41, died March 30 after he was taken off life support — seven days after the encounter with police on Jefferson Avenue. Days after his death, the medical examiner ruled his death as a homicide, saying he died of complications of asphyxia due to physical restraint, excited delirium, and PCP.

The State Attorney General’s Office is investigating the death.

Gov. Cuomo is now calling for an expedited investigation with the help of the Rochester Police Department. In a statement, he noted, "For the sake of Mr. Prude's family and the greater Rochester community I am calling for this case to be concluded as expeditiously as possible. For that to occur we need the full and timely cooperation of the Rochester Police Department and I trust it will fully comply."

Schumer also released a statement, calling Prude's death tragic and pushing for an immediate and complete investigation: "Mr. Prude's tragic death requires full accountability for any and all wrong-doing and an immediate and complete investigation, which the Attorney General is currently doing. I extend my deepest condolences to all who knew, loved and tragically lost Mr. Prude."

The city of Rochester has issued a new statement about why the death of Daniel Prude wasn't reported publicly.

A city spokesperson claims an attorney for the city's law department spoke with the State's Assistant Attorney General Jennifer Sommers. The city claims Sommers asked the city to "withhold the release of information, including the body-worn camera footage, as the release will interfere with the attorney general's ongoing investigation."

City officials say they complied with that request.

However, the State Attorney General's Office called News 10NBC Thursday night and said they never asked the mayor to not speak about the case.

In a statement on Thursday, Attorney General Letitia James said, "We encourage both Rochester and the RPD to proceed with an internal review, simultaneous to our investigation."

James says the community deserves answers, and her office is working around the clock to get them.

More than 200 protesters gathered in front of the Public Safety Building to demand justice for Daniel Prude Thursday night.

But the gathering and ensuing standoff with police — the most contentious since unrest on May 30 ended in vandalism, arson and looting — intensified as the night wore on.

Eight people were arrested and two officers were injured outside the Public Safety Building early Friday morning, said Rochester Police Capt. Michael Callari. All eight protesters were charged with disorderly conduct, a violation. Two of those protesters were also charged with resisting arrest, a misdemeanor, and one was also charged with second-degree harassment, a violation.

Callari said protesters threw rocks and bottles at officers. The two injured officers were taken to an area hospital, treated and released, he said.

The arrested protesters — both men and women — ranged in age from 24 to 60.

The law enforcement response drew criticism from at least one City Council member as "unnecessarily aggressive."

"It’s clear that City Council’s request for a respectful, de-escalated interaction with protesters went unheeded," City Council member Mitch Gruber wrote in a text message response to a reporter. "RPD initiated unnecessarily aggressive behavior toward peaceful protesters."

A mix of Rochester and New York state police fired volleys of pepper balls, and officers in helmets and face shields, carrying batons, pushed back demonstrators in shorts, jeans and T-shirts, some lobbing water bottles and shielding themselves with umbrellas.

City Council, in a letter to Mayor Lovely Warren on Thursday, had urged a more restrained law enforcement response, asking that the officers "meet these protests with respect and to de-escalate tension. We do not need any militaristic outfitting and use of pepper balls at this incredibly sensitive time for our community."

More protests were planned for Friday.