Daniel Prude’s son files lawsuit against Rochester and city police officers alleging wrongful death

Daniel Prude’s son is suing the city of Rochester, New York, and police officers involved in Prude’s death in federal court for alleged gross negligence and wrongful death.

Prude, a 41-year-old Black man, died last year in police custody. He was having a mental episode when officers handcuffed him, covered his head with a “spit sock” and held him on the ground in a prone position. Prude was taken to a hospital, declared brain dead and died a week later.

New York Attorney General Letitia James announced last month that a grand jury voted not to indict any police officers on charges related to Prude’s death.

In November, Prude’s son Nathaniel McFarland was appointed supervised administrator of his father’s estate, according to the complaint filed Monday. McFarland is one Prude’s five children. The current lawsuit replaces an earlier suit filed by Prude’s sister.

The complaint names six Rochester police officers and another unidentified officer and alleges their conduct or lack thereof led directly to Prude’s death. Prude initially was having “an acute mental health crisis” when his family called Rochester police, a decision the suit describes as “a fatal mistake.”

“Instead of providing him with care and assistance, officers of the Rochester Police Department cruelly abused him, mocked him, and killed him,” the lawsuit reads.

An attorney for the city of Rochester did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday. Attorneys were not listed for the individual officers.

Matthew Piers, an attorney for the Prude family, said in a news conference Monday, “You could hardly find an example of a worse response to a mental health crisis than what happened to Daniel Prude that night.”

He added, “People who are mentally ill are ill. They need help, not force.”

Piers would not comment on the damages being sought by Prude’s estate.

Body camera footage from that night shows Prude being pinned down by officers after having a so-called spit-sock placed over his head. At one point an officer asks Prude, “You good, man?” but Prude doesn’t respond.

Monday’s suit alleges that officers waited more than a minute after Prude went limp to notify the emergency medical technicians who were waiting at the scene, and further alleges that officers refused to uncuff Prude so a paramedic could perform CPR.

“Even the most basic care was ignored here,” Piers said.

The suit also alleges a cover-up on the part of the Rochester Police Department. In September, the city of Rochester released 325 pages of internal emails, police reports and other documents showing suggested revisions to police reports and attempts by police to discuss Prude’s death with the medical examiner prior to Prude’s autopsy.