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Rochester officials tried to withhold details about Daniel Prude's death: documents

Rochester officials tried to withhold details about Daniel Prude's death: documents
© WXXI News

Officials in Rochester, N.Y., attempted to withhold information for months about the death of a 41-year-old Black man named Daniel Prude, according to documents released by the city earlier this week.

Prude was detained by law enforcement on March 23 and died a week later due to "complications of asphyxia in the setting of physical restraint," with a medical examiner ruling his death as a homicide. A video of him being hooded and pinned down by police officers in a viral video drew national outrage.

The documents about law enforcement's handling of the arrest reveal police were reportedly attempting to frame Prude as a "suspect" rather than an "individual."

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They also show officials expressing worry that the incident would lead to protests similar to ones sparked after the death of George Floyd, a Black man killed by a white police officer in Minneapolis. 

Prude died on March 30, seven days after his arrest, and two months before the death of Floyd. 

“We certainly do not want people to misinterpret the officers’ actions and conflate this incident with any recent killings of unarmed Black men by law enforcement nationally,” Deputy Police Chief Mark Simmons wrote to one of his colleagues in June. "That would simply be a false narrative, and could create animosity and potentially violent blowback in this community as a result."

The latest details about Prude's case come as his family has accused authorities of a cover-up amid the fallout from his experience with law enforcement, one of many recent incidents of Black Americans being killed by police officers this year that has sparked national outrage.

Mayor Lovely Warren (D) fired the city's police chief Monday after an investigation concluded law enforcement and city officials in Rochester did not take Prude's death seriously and may have misled the public by withholding certain information about his case.

"This initial look has shown what so many have suspected, that we have a pervasive problem in the Rochester Police Department," said Warren. "One that views everything through the eyes of the badge and not the citizens we serve. It shows that Mr. Prude's death was not taken as seriously as it should have been by those who reviewed the case throughout City government at every level."

During Prude's arrest, he reportedly suffered from a mental breakdown as police hooded and pinned him to the ground as he lay naked and handcuffed.

Police department investigator Jacqueline Shuman told The Washington Post the department is unable to comment about the ongoing investigation.