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Former police chief says Rochester mayor pressured him to lie about his response to Daniel Prude's death

Police chief in Daniel Prude case retires
Rochester police leaders announce their retirements in wake of suffocation death of Daniel Prude 04:21

Former Rochester, New York, Police Chief La'Ron Singletary has accused the city's mayor of pressuring him to lie about the series of events following the death of Daniel Prude and firing him after he refused. Prude, a Black man, died in March after Rochester police put a spit sock over his head and pressed his face into the ground for more than three minutes while he was naked and handcuffed, according to body camera footage and documents filed by his family.

The circumstances surrounding Prude's death were not made public until September, when the family released the bodycam footage and supporting evidence. The six-month delay raised questions about why his death was not previously disclosed to the public.

In a press conference the next day and in multiple interviews thereafter, Mayor Lovely Warren claimed Singletary told her that Prude died of a PCP overdose, said she had not seen the video footage of his arrest until August, and argued that Singletary downplayed the circumstances surrounding Prude's death.

"l have addressed with police Chief La'Ron Singletary how deeply disappointed I am in him personally and professionally for failing to fully and accurately inform me about what occurred to Mr. Prude," Warren said at the time. Singletary announced his resignation days later — but weeks before he was set to officially leave, he was fired.

Rochester Police Chief, La'Ron Singletary speaks during a news conference in Rochester, New York
La'Ron Singletary seen in Rochester, New York, on September 6, 2020. Brendan McDermid / Reuters

But in his notice of claim, a precursor to a lawsuit, Singletary claims that he was fired because he refused to lie to the City Council to support Warren's narrative that she had been misinformed about Prude's death.

"On September 7, Mayor Warren asked me to withhold full and truthful information from the City Council investigation into the matter of Daniel Prude," Singletary wrote. "Mayor Warren asked me instead, to provide false information and to omit material information to support the Mayor's public narrative concerning her knowledge of the events in the matter of Daniel Prude."  

Singletary said he was asked during that September 7 conversation to omit that he told Lovely in April that Prude's death was ruled a homicide, and that he had previously told her that officers had restrained Prude before his death.

Singletary further claimed that when he announced his retirement on September 8, he sent "a clear indication to Mayor Warren that if I publicly commented or testified in the course of any investigation including the City Council's investigation concerning the matter of Daniel Prude that my truthful testimony would inevitably reveal the mayor's false public narrative."

"For this reason and possibly others, I allege and believe I was terminated on September 14th," he added.

Singletary also claimed that Warren's narrative about the months following Prude's death has "damaged my reputation for honesty, integrity, and truthfulness."

Lovely Warren
Mayor of Rochester Lovely Warren seen September 3, 2020. Michael M Santiago / Getty Images

"The Mayor of the City of Rochester, and others acting on the Mayor's behalf, impugned my performance as Chief of Police of the City of Rochester by making false statements and material omissions about my performance and discharge of duties in the matter of the treatment of Daniel Prude in the custody of the Rochester Police, his subsequent death, the internal investigations conducted by the Rochester Police Department and my communication with Mayor Warren and other city officials," he said.

The city did not respond to CBS News' request for comment.

The New York attorney general is still investigating Prude's death. A review from the city's Office of Public Integrity on Tuesday found that no city employees "violated city or departmental policies or ethical standards" in handling the case, according to CBS affiliate WROC-TV.

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