ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren and Rochester Police Chief La’Ron Singletary held a press conference Sunday afternoon from City Hall.
It was the mayor’s first public appearance since Thursday, and followed continued protests in Rochester after the news first broke Wednesday of the death of Daniel Prude. Portions of these protests have escalated.
“Over the last few nights we have seen righteous anger and heartfelt protests from many residents of our community,” Mayor Warren said.
Prude, a 41-year-old Black man from Chicago, died after an encounter with Rochester police back in March, but news of the incident just came to light Wednesday, and now the case is being investigated by the New York State Attorney General’s Office.
Seven Rochester police officers have been suspended with pay in connection to the incident: Officers Mark Vaughn, Troy Taladay, Paul Ricotta, Francisco Santiago, Andrew Specksgoor, Josiah Harris, and Sgt. Michael Magri.
While local activists have called for the mayor and police chief’s resignations, the mayor proposed police reform to better address mental health issues in the community.
“We will take our family crisis intervention team out of the police department,” Mayor Warren said. “We will fully engage with the RASE commission and a real, rapid response team to further improve our response to mental heath crisis and reimagine our police department.”
“I understand that there are certain calls that law enforcement shouldn’t handle alone,” Chief Singletary said.
The mayor defended Chief Singletary, saying she believes he’s the man to guide the community through these difficult times.
“I wholeheartedly believe that Chief La’Ron Singletary is the right person to lead us through these times,” Mayor Warren said. “He was born and raised right here in Rochester. I do not believe there is another person more dedicated to change the culture of policing than La’Ron.”
When asked if she would consider resigning, the mayor said now is a time for leadership.
“For everything that we have seen this year it is clear to me that there is more work to be done and I am committed to doing what’s necessary and I know that the chief is committed to doing what’s necessary to better serve our citizens and our community.
The mayor said that the police need to protect the Public Safety Building.
“There is credible information that outside agitators want to destroy the Public Safety Building, Mayor Warren said.
“We do have intelligence that we’ve been receiving that there have been outside agitators that have come to Rochester, as you know we monitor social media,” Chief Singletary said. “So we do have credible information that one of the areas they want to target, symbolic feature. We have arrested people who provided address from Alaska, Massachusetts and other parts of the country.”
The mayor said that Reverend Myra Brown of Spiritus Christi Church will lead a coalition of elders to serve as a buffer between protesters and police during demonstrations, after calls by activists that Rochester police have used excessive force with pepper bullets, and tear gas.
“Mr. Prude’s death re-triggered pain, trauma in this community and its important when a community is grieving to be given the space to grieve, to be angry,” Rev. Brown said.
When asked what makes a protest “unlawful,” the police chief said that declaration is made when debris is thrown at officers.
“I’m asking elders to be there from the beginning of the protest until the end of the protest because we need to be able to move freely where we need to be able to move in a space where it is not declared to be an unlawful gathering.”
Questions of the timeline
At a press conference from Rochester City Hall Thursday, Mayor Lovely Warren said Police Chief La’Ron Singletary told her that Daniel Prude died from an apparent drug overdose back in March.
“When our officers responded on March 23, I was informed that day by Chief Singletary that Mr. Prude had an apparent drug overdose while in custody,” Mayor Warren said Thursday. “Chief Singletary never informed me of the actions of his officers to forcible restrain Mr. Prude. I only learned of those officer’s actions on August 4 when corporation counsel reviewed the video while fulfilling the FOIL request from Mr. Prude’s attorney. At no time, prior to August 4, did Chief Singletary, or anyone, make me aware or show me the video of the actions of the RPD officers involved in Mr. Prude’s death.”
Prude died in March, yet word of his death, and how it happened, only became public after his family and the attorneys representing them released body camera footage. The question on the minds of many in Rochester is simply “what took so long?”
The mayor’s says her office was instructed by the New York State Attorney General’s Office to not announce anything publicly regarding the investigation, but the attorney general’s office says those claims are not true.
Rochester City Councilman Mitch Gruber called for subpoenas to find out what Mayor Warren knew in regards to the death of Daniel Prude that took place on March 23.
“I was not aware of that autopsy in April, the chief called me at 7 in the morning [on March 23] and he told me what he knew at the time,” Mayor Warren said. “And he did whatever he needed to do at that point forward. It wasn’t until August 4 that I was aware of the video and say the video and that was by corporation council.
“He handled it the way that he needed to handle it internally, and so when he made the call to me it was the information that he had on the time and then he needed to do what he needed to do on the back end,” Mayor Warren said. “City council is going to be reviewing this and so you will see as they go through their review that all the steps that were taken were in proper order.
“When you look through the timeline, and step by step by step, he gave me the information that he knew when he had,” Mayor Warren said.
“On the morning of the 23, I made factual information provided to the mayor,” Chief Singletary said. “On the morning of March 30 when Mr. Prude passed away as well. The mayor just said she was not aware of the autopsy.
“This is a criminal investigation and as part of the criminal investigation the officers do have the right of an attorney, so I have no control as police chief whether they make a statement to the attorneys general’s office,” La’Ron Singletary said. “The attorney general’s office took over the investigation on April 16 and the internal investigation is being done by the professional standards section and that investigation is still ongoing.”
This is a developing story. News 8 WROC will provide updates as they become available.