The documents also include other examples of possible attempts by police and city officials to verify the story of Prude’s death in custody.
A lawyer from a family law firm on body camera footage sparked an attempt by city and police officials to slowly walk out of the release of the tape, showing officers kneeling and holding back Prude.
Elliot Shields, a lawyer detained by Prude’s brother, filed a request for freedom of information on the recordings on April 3. The footage was not released until August 12.
The documents show that after this email, city attorneys spoke with Rochester police officers and also a lawyer in New York’s Attorney General in an attempt to deny or delay the request.
“I wonder if we should not hold it back a bit while we consider what is going on around the country,”
“We certainly do not want people to misinterpret officers’ actions and confuse this incident with any recent killings of unarmed black men of national law enforcement,” Simmons wrote. “I request that we reach out to the Corporation Council and ask them to reject the request in view of the fact that the case is still active as it is currently being investigated for possible criminal proceedings being presented by the AG’s office.”
“I totally agree,” Singletary replied.
Prude stopped breathing and was pronounced brain dead at a hospital where he died a week later on March 30.
The Monroe County Medical Examiner ultimately ruled out Prude’s death as a homicide, citing complications of asphyxia associated with physical restraint. The report also cites agitated delirium and acute PCP poisoning as contributing factors to the immediate cause of death.
Accusations of concealment
“This initial look has shown what so many suspect we have a pervasive problem in the Rochester Police Department,” Warren said in a press release. “One who sees everything through the eyes of the badge and not the citizens we serve. It shows that Mr. Prude’s death was not taken as seriously as it should have been by those who reviewed the case throughout the city council at all levels.”
In a statement last week announcing his retirement, Singletary said the public was misinformed about what he was doing.
“The members of the Rochester Police Department and the Greater Rochester Community know my reputation and know what I stand for,” Singletary said. “The mischaracterization and politicization of the actions I took after being informed of Mr Prude’s death is not based on facts and is not what I stand for.”
Last week, Prude’s sister filed a lawsuit in federal court against Singletary, 13 other officers and upstate New York City, claiming in part a cover-up of the death. Neither Singletary nor the city responded to requests for comment on the lawsuit.
Simmons, acting chief executive, did not respond to CNN’s request for comment Wednesday.
New York’s Freedom of Information Act allows government agencies to withhold documents when their disclosure would interfere with an ongoing investigation or compromise a confidential informant.
Family lawyer Shields was able to view police footage at the Attorney General’s office in mid-July, but was not given a copy.
In an email on June 3 between Rochester Police Lt. Michael Perkowski and Rochester City Attorney Stephanie Price told Perkowski that an attorney at AG’s office “might be able to help by letting the plaintiff’s attorney see the footage used on camera without releasing it, buying a little more time before we are need to release this. “
On Wednesday, New York Attorney Letitia James’ office issued a statement to CNN defending her office.
At no point in the course of this investigation did any member of the Attorney General’s office instruct the city of Rochester or the Rochester Police Department to withhold information of any kind, period.
“For several weeks, the city and police have been running a deeply disturbing and misleading campaign in an attempt to cover their tracks and avoid accountability rather than focus on the current problem. As we have been doing since April, our office will continue to work tirelessly. and without distraction to provide the answers that the Prude family and the Rochester community deserve. “
‘Make him a suspect’
In addition, the documents show at least two cases where changes were made to reports relating to the incident that led to Prude’s death.
Two incident reports filed by police officers appear to have the documents released by the city edited in red pencil. It is unclear who made these handwritten notes, or when they were actually made. In an incident report filed by Officer Mark Vaughn, among many edits, some prosaic, Prude’s name is written in the space labeled “Victim.”
Prude’s name is circled in red next to a large, handwritten note: “Make him suspicious.”
A similar note is attached to a report by Officer Paul Ricotta, who responded to a burglary alarm at. 3:10
List Daniel Prude as [Suspect], “it sounds with red pencil.” Add burglary – video recorded during the day shows [suspect] break window and enter location. “
Body cam footage from Prude’s arrest includes officers wondering if Prude (described as “Mr. PCP”) may be the person responsible for a broken window in a T-Mobile store. The original report had listed the suspect as “unknown.”
Rochester Police Union President Mike Mazzeo told CNN on Wednesday that he does not know who wrote the handwritten audits of the police reports, but said it is common practice to conduct audits of reports before they are completed. He pointed out that the reports in question do not have a supervisor’s deregistration on them.
An undated follow-up report on the incident from Rochester’s Major Crimes Unit says “several reports have been rejected for audits”, but does not specify which reports or which audits.
Attempt to talk to a doctor
In addition, the documents reveal an email exchange after Prude’s death at Strong Memorial Hospital, where Lieutenant Perkowski tried to speak to the doctor’s office before Prude’s autopsy.
“I imagine your office is performing an autopsy,” Perkowski wrote to Julie Luedke, the confidential assistant to the Monroe County Medical Examiner on March 31. “Can you and I have a conversation before you start it?”
“It’s something sensitive when he was in police custody when he was sent to the hospital,” Perkowski continued. “I was on stage and have all the details for you.”
In response, Luedke asked for the relevant incident reports, which Perkowski said were on the way. He then said again that he had “background information” and offered to meet with the doctor. Luedke responded by saying she would call Perkowski.
The Monroe County Medical Examiner eventually ruled Prude’s death as a homicide. CNN has reached out to the doctor’s office for comment.
Mazzeo, the police union president, said this was likely a standard interaction.
“A doctor has to have the information and set up a lot of information based on the context of what happened,” he said.
“I did not see any of these emails before they were released. But I tell you that the doctor will always have that kind of information, and major crimes work hand in hand with the ME’s office about any killing or any investigation.”
Mazzeo said the union will represent the officers involved in the case and he plans to announce the names of those lawyers as soon as Friday.
He also acknowledged the missteps among police and city management.
“I’m shocked and I have no reason why they handled this that way. And apparently the boss has paid the price for it, but I tend to think there are way too many gentlemen. And we do not get really something to the root of the problem, ”he said.
“Why would any of us want to live through what we’re going through now? You know, public trust is important, and yet it’s very difficult in police work. Why make stupid mistakes or deal with things this way. It gives no one meaning … And leadership should be called into question. “
CNN’s Eric Levenson contributed to this report.