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Prude family files new lawsuit against city, Rochester police officers


Daniel Prude was 41 when he died March 30, 2020. - PHOTO PROVIDED
  • Daniel Prude was 41 when he died March 30, 2020.
Daniel Prude’s son has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the city of Rochester and several Rochester Police Department officers, including three who restrained his father amidst a mental health crisis.

The federal lawsuit, filed Monday by Nathan McFarland, effectively supplants one filed in September by Prude’s sister on behalf of Prude’s estate. McFarland is one of Prude’s five surviving children and courts have appointed him supervisor and administrator of the estate.

Many of the allegations laid out in the new claim mirror those in the prior filing. It accuses three Rochester police officers — Mark Vaughn, Francisco Santiago, and Troy Taladay — of using excessive force by restraining Prude during his arrest on Jefferson Avenue on March 23, and claims the Police Department attempted to cover up Prude’s death

The new claim seeks unspecified damages and argues that the Police Department has a culture that perpetuates and conceals officers’ use of excessive force. But the lawsuit drops several broader actions sought in the prior claim, including a request for the court to appoint a federal monitor to oversee reforms to the Police Department.

“In the period leading up to the RPD officers’ fatal interaction with Daniel, the City of Rochester was well aware that it maintained an utterly broken system for reviewing and disciplining allegations of excessive force by its officers,” read the complaint filed Monday.

The lawsuit alleges that city officials were aware that Rochester police officers had been inadequately trained to deal with mental health crises, but had not taken significant steps to address the issue.

Prude was naked, unarmed, and in the midst of a mental health crisis when police encountered him. His brother, Joe Prude, had called 911 to report that Daniel, who was visiting from Chicago, had abruptly left the house. Joe Prude had informed officers that his brother had been released from Strong Memorial Hospital a few hours earlier and that he was suicidal, according to the complaint.

Prude complied when Vaughn, who was the first to find him, pointed a Taser at him and ordered him to lay down on the freezing pavement. Vaughn handcuffed him and the officers mocked Prude instead of assisting him, the complaint alleges.

When Prude tried to get up because he was “obviously in extreme discomfort and terrified,” the three officers pinned him to the ground under the weight of their bodies for over two minutes, the claim alleges.

The complaint goes on to allege that Prude “started loudly gurgling and sobbing between words, very clearly struggling to gasp for air,” but the officers didn’t relent on their holds, nor did they remove a spit sock they’d placed over his head.

Prude went unconscious and was transported by ambulance to Strong Memorial Hospital, where he died a week later. The medical examiner ruled his death a homicide, and determined he died of “complications of asphyxia in the setting of physical restraint” due in part to “excited delirium” brought on by PCP intoxication.

Attorney General Letitia James opened an investigation into Prude’s death. But last month, a grand jury empaneled as part of that probe cleared the officers of any criminal charges.

Jeremy Moule is CITY's news editor. He can be reached at [email protected].