by DARIEN LAMEN
NOTE: This article has been updated to include late-breaking response from City administration and Council President Scott.
(ROCHESTER NY-- ) Rochester City Council President Loretta Scott said Wednesday that Mayor Lovely Warren told her a man we now know to be Daniel Prude died of a PCP overdose while in police custody when the two spoke by phone in August.
If true, the allegation is the clearest indication yet that the Mayor knew about the circumstances surrounding the police killing of Daniel Prude--including the fact the cause of death was ruled homicide by asphyxiation--and chose not disclose them.
President Scott made the comments during an episode of WXXI's Connections with Evan Dawson.
Scott told Dawson that the first time she heard the name Daniel Prude was last week on September 2nd, when Prude's family alongside Black Lives Matter organizers with Free the People Roc went public with the video of the arrest.
"Why do you think the mayor did not inform council and yourself?" Dawson asked Scott Wednesday.
"Um, I don't, I don't, I don't know," Scott stammered. "I won't try to speak for her. What I will tell you is that on or about August 20th, the mayor mentioned, she said 'We had a death in custody. A gentleman died in the hospital. He had a PCP overdose.'"
That would have been after the Mayor says she first viewed the graphic police body camera video of the arrest that led to Mr. Prude's death.
"She tells you two weeks after she saw the tape on August 4th, that yeah, it was a drug overdose. Meanwhile there were negotiations with the family. Is it plausible that her intention was never for this to be made public, to settle with the Prude family, and keep this out of the public eye entirely? Is that possible?" Dawson asked Scott.
"Well, anything is possible. But I'm not prepared to assign motive," Scott said.
On Wednesday evening, City Communications Director Justin Roj issued a statement challenging Scott's account.
"Within 48 hours of Mayor Warren seeing the video regarding the death of Mr. Prude, she fully briefed President Scott regarding the incident, including the family's notice of claim, the Medical Examiner's findings and the Attorney General's investigation," the statement reads in part, adding, "At no time, after being briefed, did President Scott ask to see the video of Mr. Prude's death."
In response, President Scott issued a statement that admits she got the date wrong, and the conversation likely took place on August 6 or 8. However, she maintains that the rest of what she said on air Wednesday was accurate.
"What I recall from my conversation with the mayor is that she shared that a lawsuit had been filed against the City by the family of a man who died in the hospital under police custody. I was told the individual was high on PCP and had died of an overdose. At no point was I told there was use of force by officers and there was no mention of having seen disturbing video. At the conclusion of this conversation, the Mayor asked that this information be held in confidence because for the time being as the matter was in the hands of the Attorney General," Scott's statement says, adding "Had I been told about a gruesome video or the use of force by officers, I certainly would have insisted to see the video myself."
Last week, the Mayor said she first learned of Daniel Prude's death back in March. However, she suggested that RPD Chief La'Ron Singletary had misrepresented the death to her as an overdose at the time, noting that she only saw the police body camera footage for herself on August 4th when the City Legal Department was preparing to release the video to Daniel Prude's family in response to a Freedom of Information request.
In an apparently coordinated protest, several members of the RPD command staff, including Chief Singletary, have since announced their intentions to "retire" or take voluntary demotions.
DARIEN LAMEN is news producer/director for WXIR Community Radio. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.