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Rochester officer faces discipline for role in Black man's death

By Jake Thomas
Rochester officer faces discipline for role in Black man's death
A view of downtown Rochester, N.Y. where an officer faces charges related to the 2020 death of Daniel Prude. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Sept. 25 (UPI) -- A Rochester, N.Y. police officer faces charges stemming from the death of a Black man who died while being taken into custody.

Daniel Prude, 41, died from asphyxiation as officers covered his head and held him to the ground in March 2020 after his family reported he was having a mental health crisis. A year later, a grand jury declined to prosecute the seven officers involved and an outside investigation found city officials misled the public on the incident.

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Mark Vaughn, one of the officers involved, now faces departmental charges of excessive use of force and unprofessional behavior, The New York Times reports. A hearing will determine what charges, if any, Vaughn will face, and city officials haven't provided a timeline.

Police released body camera footage of the incident in September last year. The release came amid waves of protests nationally calling for racial reckoning sparked by the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis officers. Rochester saw multiple nights of confrontational protests and calls for reform.

RELATED Protesters march on Rochester as mayor announces police reforms

The released video shows Vaughn and other officers pinning Prude to the ground for about two minutes, reports the Times.

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A law firm hired by the city released a report Thursday that reaffirmed findings of interim Police Chief Cynthia Herriott-Sullivan that charges were only justified against Vaughn, reports the Democrat and Chronicle. Only the Rochester chief of police can discipline officers.

"The city of Rochester has yet to hold officers accountable when they violate people's constitutional rights," Elliot Shields, a lawyer who represents Daniel Prude's brother in a lawsuit against the city, told the Times. "Every single officer at the scene had a duty to intervene to prevent the unlawful use of force against Mr. Prude."

RELATED Rochester, N.Y., mayor suspends 7 officers involved in asphyxiation death

Lawyers for Vaughn nor the police union responded to the Times' request for comment.

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