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Daniel Prude's family reaches $12M settlement with Rochester, N.Y., over 2020 death

Prude died in March 2020 after police restrained him with handcuffs and placed a "spit hood" over his head.
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The family of Daniel Prude, a Black man who died more than two years ago after he was detained by upstate New York police, has reached a $12 million settlement with the city of Rochester.

The city announced the news Thursday but did not acknowledge any wrongdoing in Prude's March 2020 death. Prude died following an encounter with police after they restrained him with handcuffs and placed a “spit hood” over his head.

In a statement, Mayor Malik Evans said the settlement was the best decision "given the costs of continued litigation."

"It would have cost taxpayers even more to litigate, and would have placed a painful toll on our community," Evans said. "It is now time to look forward so we may work together and focus our efforts on Rochester's future."

Daniel Prude
Daniel Prude. Provided by family attorney Elliot Shields

Attorneys for Prude's family released a statement praising the settlement, which they believe to be the largest of its kind in Rochester history, but said it will not solve the larger issue of police violence.

“The current Rochester city administration is to be commended for seeing the need to resolve this case in order to move forward from this painful tragedy,” attorney Steve Schwarz said.

Attorney Matthew Piers said: “This settlement is a very large monetary recovery for a very serious fatal civil rights violation. A damages recovery is all the Estate of Daniel Prude is entitled to as a matter of law. No purely monetary settlement can truly address the fundamental problem of police violence that underlies this tragic case. Policing in this country must be reformed to be more humane." 

Prude, 41, was having a mental health episode when police restrained him on March 23, 2020. His brother, Joe Prude, had called 911 for help with his brother's behavior. Daniel Prude had undergone a mental health check at a hospital the previous day.

When officers arrived, Prude was naked. He immediately complied with their commands to lie on the ground facedown and to put his hands behind his back.

In a video released by Prude's family, he was seen speaking gibberish and told the officers to take note of his genitals. He repeatedly asked for a gun, the video showed.

At one point in the footage, a handcuffed Prude sat up but officers pushed him back down on the ground after he again asked for a gun. One officer placed his knee on Prude's back, according to the video.

Prude started whimpering unintelligibly. The video showed the officers laughing and joking with paramedics. When police noticed that Prude was limp and nonresponsive, paramedics were called over and CPR was started.

He died days later at a hospital. According to an autopsy report from Monroe County Medical Examiner Nadia Granger, Prude died of "complications of asphyxia in the setting of physical restraint," with the drug PCP listed as a contributing factor.

A New York grand jury last year declined to indict any of the officers involved. New York Attorney General Letitia James said at the time that the jury was presented with the "strongest case possible."

Seven officers were placed on paid suspension, but only one was served with departmental charges following an internal investigation. Officer Mark Vaughn was cited for unnecessary or excessive force and discourteous/unprofessional conduct, the department said last year.