Ex-Rochester police chief: I saw nothing 'egregious' in Prude video

Video released on Sept. 2, 2020 shows Daniel Prude sitting on the ground during the encounter with police on March 23, 2020 in Rochester, New York. (Photo: Rochester Police Department via Roth & Roth LLP)

Rochester’s former police chief said he did not initially see anything "egregious" in body-cam video of officers restraining Daniel Prude, the Black man who died after being held down naked on a city street last winter.

La’Ron Singletary, who was fired by the mayor after the video's public release, answered questions Friday in a live-streamed, hours-long deposition about the city's handling of the case. The city council’s fact-finding review is separate from an ongoing grand jury investigation into Prude’s death.

The video shows Prude handcuffed and naked with a spit hood over his head as an officer pushes his face against the ground, while another officer presses a knee to his back in the early morning of March 23. The officers held him down for about two minutes until he stopped breathing. He was taken off life support a week later.

Singletary said he spoke twice to Mayor Lovely Warren on March 23 and by then, he had watched some of the body-worn camera footage from the scene, according to the Democrat and Chronicle of Rochester.

"It appeared that there was nothing egregious at that point in time," Singletary said he told Warren. "I explained to the mayor that we were going to be doing an investigation. I told the mayor there were no strikes, there were no punches with regard to the video."

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The county medical examiner listed the manner of death as homicide caused by "complications of asphyxia in the setting of physical restraint" and cited PCP as a contributing factor.

The Prude family held a news conference and released the video on Sept. 2, sparking nightly protests in Rochester.

Singletary claimed in legal papers filed in December that Warren urged him to omit facts and give false information to back her claim that it wasn’t until months later that she learned key details of the police encounter that led to Prude’s death. On Friday, he said he was asked to "provide false information to support her narrative."

The city released a statement Friday saying Singletary "downplayed what occurred from the very beginning through today, and believes that neither he nor anyone in the Rochester Police Department, did anything wrong."