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Daniel Prude's family reaches a $12 million settlement with Rochester, N.Y.


The city of Rochester, N.Y., has settled with the estate of Daniel Prude. His death, following his arrest by police in March of 2020, touched off demonstrations in that city and nationwide. WXXI news reporter Gino Fanelli in Rochester reports. And just to note, this story describes graphic details of Prude's death.

GINO FANELLI, BYLINE: Daniel Prude was wandering the streets on the west side of the city, naked and acting erratically. It was a frigid morning. Prude had just shattered a window of a local business when police encountered him. An enduring image of his arrest was that of prude, who was 41 years old, on his knees, his hands cuffed behind his back and a mesh spit bag over his head. Police held him in a three-pronged restraint known as segmenting. During the restraint, Prude vomited and lost consciousness. He died a week later at a local hospital.

Prude's death did not become known to the public until about six months later, when lawyers representing his family released police body worn camera footage of his arrest. The video sparked finger-pointing between officials at city hall over who knew what when and led to the resignations of the entirety of the police department's top brass, including the chief, La'Ron Singletary. After two years of litigation, the city agreed to pay Prude's five children $12 million. The settlement stipulates that the city was not liable for Prude's death. Steven Schwarz was one of three lawyers representing Prude's children.

STEVEN SCHWARZ: I think it's a just outcome. I think it's a recognition by the administration that has taken over the city that this tragedy was avoidable and that this was something that shouldn't have happened. And it's something that should never happen again.

FANELLI: An independent investigation commissioned by the Rochester City Council determined that several city officials suppressed information regarding Prude's death, including former Mayor Lovely Warren. Rochester's current mayor, Malik Evans, said settling the case gives the city a chance to move forward.

MALIK EVANS: This has been going on for two years. Obviously, I've been in office in nine months. One of the things we wanted to do is try to bring this chapter to a close. And I believe if you saw my statement today, I believe that this does that.

FANELLI: None of the officers involved in the arrest were ever charged. A report issued by New York Attorney General Letitia James stated Prude died from excited delirium caused by the use of the drug PCP. Excited delirium is a controversial medical diagnosis, often pointing to when people die in police custody. The settlement does not make any recommendations on changes to the police department's policies or procedures. For NPR News, I'm Gino Fanelli in Rochester, N.Y. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Gino Fanelli