The chief of police as well as several other high-ranking law enforcement officials in Rochester, New York have resigned following protests and accusations of a cover-up in the wake of the killing of Daniel Prude, a black man who was placed in a hood while in custody in March.
Mayor Lovely Warren also announced during a city council meeting that “the entire command staff” had resigned.
Rochester Police Chief La’Ron Singletary’s resignation follows New York Attorney General Letitia James’s announcement of a grand jury investigation into Mr Prude’s death.
“As a man of integrity, I will not sit idly by while outside entities attempt to destroy my character,” chief Singletary said in a statement. “The members of the Rochester Police Department and the Greater Rochester Community know my reputation and know what I stand for. The mischaracterisation and the politicisation of the actions that I took after being informed of Mr Prude’s death is not based on facts, and is not what I stand for.”
Seven officers were suspended for their roles in Mr Prude’s death. Nightly demonstrations against his killing have followed widespread protests against police violence against black Americans across the US.
Officers found Mr Prude, whose family says had struggled with mental health and drug issues, naked in the middle of a street in the early morning hours of 23 March.
He followed officers’ orders to get on the ground and place his hands behind his back, according to recently released police video from the scene that the family obtained through a public records request after months of uncertainty.
As he tried to rise, police placed a “spit hood” over his head and pinned him to the ground for two minutes. He died seven days later on 30 March after he was removed from life support.
An autopsy report from the Monroe County Medical Examiner’s office confirmed Mr Prude died from “complications of asphyxia in the setting of physical restraint” and compounded by acute intoxication by phencyclidine, or PCP.
The death was initially reported as the result of a drug overdose, a characterisation that the family’s attorneys argue was intended to insulate the police from mishandling the arrest.
“The Prude family and the Rochester community have been through great pain and anguish,” the state’s attorney general said in a statement on Saturday. “My office will immediately move to empanel a grand jury as part of our exhaustive investigation into this matter.”
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said in a statement following Attorney General James’ announcement that “justice delayed is justice denied and the people of New York deserve the truth.”