The Washington Post - USA (2020-09-16)

(Antfer) #1

A8 EZ SU THE WASHINGTON POST.WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 16 , 2020


BY DARRYL FEARS,
MARIA SACCHETTI,
ASHLEY CUSICK
AND T.S. STRICKLAND

mobile, ala. — As Hurricane
Sally churned off the northern
Gulf Coast with 80 mph winds,
powerful waves pounded beach-
es, rivers and creeks swelled, the
National Hurricane Center
warned of “extremely dangerous
and life-threatening storm surge”
and residents from Louisiana to
Florida were urged to seek higher
ground.
Forecasters tagged slow-mov-
ing Sally as an unusual type, a
“walking storm,” because it lum-
bered at just 2 mph, about as fast
as a lazy stroll. The lack of speed
bought time for residents in low-
lying St. Charles Parish, La.; Mo-
bile County, Ala.; Harrison Coun-
ty, Miss.; and Escambia, Fla., to
leave their homes.
But it meant as much as 30
inches of rain could fall along the
coasts of those states and up to
five feet of storm surge could
inundate coastal communities.
Forecasters said there could be
record flooding along rivers in
Northwest Florida, parts of Ala-
bama and perhaps Georgia.
“The slow forward speed is
likely to result in a historical
rainfall event for the north-cen-
tral Gulf Coast,” the National Hur-
ricane Center posted in an online
discussion about the storm Tues-
day.
Sally’s wobbly movement also
makes it hard to predict where it
will strike land. On Monday, me-
teorologists predicted it would hit
Biloxi, Miss., but that changed
Tuesday and Mayor Andrew
“FoFo” Gilich was relieved.
“We’re real thankful that we
were spared the storm surge,”
Gilich said. “Four to six feet
they’re predicting. That’s a lot
better than seven or 11.”
But in Mobile, Ala., County
Commissioner Merceria Ludgood
watched with dread as predic-
tions pointed their way.
“We’re telling people that
there’s going to be a lot of water,”
Ludgood said from an emergency
management facility where she
and other officials planned t o ride
out the storm. “The ground can
only hold so much of it. Don’t w ait
to leave.”
Mobile is a city with thousands
of oak trees that could tumble
when their root systems are


soaked. It is also adorned with
rivers, canals and the enormous
Big Creek Lake that is prone to
flooding, said Mike Evans, deputy
director of the Mobile County
Emergency Management Agency.
Evans said the county has been
divided into evacuation zones.
Residents south of Interstate 10 as
well as those east of Interstate 65
in Mobile Bay and the network of
rivers that feed it should get out,
he said.
The county sheriff commis-
sioned a 15-ton military grade
vehicle to respond if residents
who decide to hunker down are
trapped. But Evans hopes it
doesn’t come to that. When the
hurricane hits, public officials,
emergency personnel included,
planned to shelter in place.
Emergency officials gently
asked Mobile County residents to
impose on friends and family in-
land to put them up for a while.
Theodore High School, where the
county established a shelter, can
usually hold up to a thousand
evacuees. But social distancing as
a result of the coronavirus pan-
demic has limited occupation to
only 300.
Downtown Mobile was mostly
empty Tuesday, with businesses
in the flood-prone area closed in
advance of Hurricane Sally. Signs
of a hurricane’s approach were a
common sight: boarded windows,
sandbagged doors and streets

barricaded in places where water
was expected to surge.
Hayley’s Bar was one of a few
exceptions. Doors were open and
three customers enjoyed after-
noon drinks. None seemed con-
cerned about the coming storm.
“The city floods on like a nor-
mal rainy day,” said Grace Foster,


  1. “Here, we have rain, tropical
    storms, hurricanes. We’re kind of
    due for a good hurricane.”
    Foster and the other patrons
    live within walking distance of
    Hayley’s. They said they were
    ready for whatever Sally might
    bring.


“We are all stocked up for covid
already, so we had a lot of the stuff
we need,” said Tres Wiggins, 28.
“I just moved all my plants
inside,” Foster said, “and we
stocked up on alcohol.”
Heading south toward Dau-
phin Island, Ala., Sally’s effects
were more visible Tuesday, as
floodwaters from Mobile Bay be-
gan spilling across roads.
Sonya Gunderson, 60, was hav-
ing a ball at a r etreat on the island,
where she traveled from Iowa to
meet seven friends who fished the
ocean and frolicked on the beach.
But Sally chased them off the

vulnerable strip of land into a
condo in Mobile.
On Tuesday, she walked in a
steady downpour downtown,
wearing a blue raincoat and car-
rying a pan, a lighter and some
candles — supplies borrowed
from the property manager in
advance of the storm’s impact.
“A ll of our events are canceled,”
Gunderson said. “We had deep
sea fishing, dinner on the ocean.
Now, we’re just playing games.”
At a popular fishing spot near
Buccaneer Yacht Club, Robert
Boykin, 62, sat with his wife in one
of a dozen parked cars, looking
out over the bay’s unusually chop-
py waters.
“I just hope it doesn’t get too
bad, because I only stay a mile or
two from here,” Boykin said.
For Boykin and others, Sally’s
snail-paced approach made it
hard t o know just when to hunker
down.
“We’re here looking now,” he
said. “But as soon as we get home,
we’re going to be there.”
In Biloxi, the city’s eight casi-
nos were still temporarily shut
after the storm turned east. One
casino flashed a sign saying “Sor-
ry.”
Since 2005, residents have
compared major storms to Hurri-
cane Katrina, which pummeled
the city with 28 feet of storm
surges that are still marked in
blue paint on telephone poles.
“We got wiped off the face of the
Earth,” said Karen Parrott, 63, as
she took an afternoon stroll to the
shore with her husband, Bill, also
63.
The couple said they were not
worried about Hurricane Sally.
“Not after Katrina,” she said.
Across the Route 110 bridge
that links Biloxi to the city of
D’Iberville, Miss., a pair of friends
chatted as the high tide covered
picnic tables and seeped into the
road. They said they were not
expecting much from Sally.
“It’s doubtful this late in the
season,” said Joshua Jackson, 2 7, a
construction worker from the
community of Vancleave, Miss.,
who stopped to hang out under
the bridge on his way home from
work in Gulfport, Miss.
But the Biloxi mayor — a life-
long resident — said he was not
prepared to declare storm season
over.
“Who knows?” Gilich said
about it, noting that in his State of
the City address in January he had

predicted a great year ahead.
“Don’t you just feel really good
about 2020?” h e recalled saying in
his speech.
“Boy, was I wrong,” h e said with
an eye roll. “I'm not going to say
that again."
In Northwest Florida, Escam-
bia and Santa Rosa county offi-
cials imposed voluntary evacua-
tion orders for coastal and low-ly-
ing areas, urging vulnerable resi-
dents to seek higher ground.
“Flooding is one of the most
serious concerns we have with
this storm,” Escambia County
Emergency Manager Eric
Gilmore said during a Tuesday
afternoon news conference. “The
amount of rain and storm surge
will make this a historic event."
The brand-new Pensacola Bay
Bridge, one of only two evacua-
tion routes off Santa Rosa Island
and Pensacola Beach, was shut
down Tuesday when a barge oper-
ated by a state contractor collided
with the structure.
Local officials suspended tolls
for the nearby Garcon Point
Bridge, to make it easier for resi-
dents to evacuate.
On the other side of Escambia
Bay, in downtown Pensacola,
about 100 residents had hunkered
down at a l ocal civic center turned
storm shelter by midafternoon.
Michael Kimberl, director of
the Alfred Washburn Center,
which serves the homeless, spent
much of the last 24 hours ferrying
the homeless to the civic center.
“I’ve been driving shuttle most
of the afternoon and last night
trying to get people to shelters,”
said Kimberl, who dropped off
about 30 people there by 3 p.m.
Tuesday.
Kimberl worried he wouldn’t
be able to reach all of the area’s
homeless before the storm made
landfall and felt local authorities
were partially to blame for wait-
ing too long to announce local
shelter openings.
“We had about 100 people at
the center yesterday afternoon,”
he said. “Had I known about the
shelter before we closed, I could
have sent them there.”
darryl.fears@washpost.com
maria.sacchetti@washpost.com

Cusick reported from Mobile,
Sacchetti reported from Biloxi,
Strickland reported from Pensacola
and Fears reported from D.C. Andrew
Freedman, in D.C., contributed to this
report.

Slow-moving Hurricane Sally could pack a ‘life-threatening storm surge’


BRYAN TARNOWSKI FOR THE WASHINGTON POST

ASSOCIATED PRESS
TOP: A road is blocked off n ear downtown Pascagoula, Miss.
ABOVE: A satellite image s hows Sally moving slowly toward the
Gulf Coast.  For more, visit wapo.st/HurricaneSallyForecast

BY HANNAH KNOWLES,
REIS THEBAULT
AND SHAYNA JACOBS

Law enforcement and other of-
ficials in Rochester, N.Y., worked
for months to withhold informa-
tion about the death of Daniel
Prude, a Black man whom police
hooded and pinned to the ground
in a graphic video that h as drawn a
national outcry, documents re-
leased Monday show.
Prude’s family has accused au-
thorities of a coverup amid grow-
ing fallout from the case, one of
the latest to spark outrage over
police treatment of Black Ameri-
cans. Rochester Mayor Lovely A.
Warren fired the city’s police chief
Monday after an internal investi-
gation concluded that police com-
manders and city officials did not
take Prude’s death seriously
enough and may have sought to
mislead the public. Prude, who
was detained by police March 23,
died a week l ater. A medical exam-
iner ruled his death a homicide
caused by “complications of as-
phyxia in the setting of physical
restraint. ”
The documents, which the city
released Monday, capture repeat-
ed attempts by officials to prevent
the full picture of Prude’s death
from getting out — with authori-
ties’ citing an ongoing investiga-
tion and privacy laws among their
justifications — as they worried
about a public backlash in a cli-
mate o f growing s crutiny of police.
“We certainly do not want peo-
ple to misinterpret the officers’
actions and conflate this incident
with any recent killings of un-
armed Black men by law enforce-
ment nationally,” Deputy Police
Chief Mark Simmons wrote to
Chief La’Ron Singletary in June as
protests over the death of George
Floyd swept the country. “That
would simply be a false narrative,
and could create animosity and
potentially violent blowback in
this community as a result.”
Singletary wrote back about 20
minutes later: “I totally agree.”
Officials said Prude was experi-
encing a mental breakdown dur-


ing his arrest. Experts have said
Rochester police failed to use
long-standing tactics designed to
help those in crisis. “You’re trying
to kill me!” Prude says on video
after police cover his head with a
“spit hood,” meant to protect offi-
cers from bodily fluids. Officials
said Prude claimed he had the
coronavirus.
Warren cited the city review —
which drew on more than 300
pages of police records and email
correspondence — in announcing
the dismissal of Singletary, who
had said he planned to step down
at the end of September. Warren
also suspended the city’s top law-
yer and its spokesperson for 30
days.
Warren named Simmons a s act-
ing interim police chief Monday.
“This initial look has shown
what so many have s uspected, that
we have a pervasive problem in
the R ochester P olice Department,”
Warren, a Democrat, said in a
statement. She said officials
throughout the city’s government
should have taken the case more
seriously.

Investigator Jacqueline
Shuman, a spokeswoman for the
police department, declined to
comment on the report and its
findings.
“We are unable to comment on
this case as this is an ongoing
investigation,” she said in an

email.
The case did not enter the na-
tional spotlight until Prude’s fam-
ily released the v ideo from a p olice
body camera, in which one officer
places his hands on Prude, who
was naked and handcuffed, as he
lies face d own. Another o fficer can

be seen putting his knee on
Prude’s back. Rochester’s mayor
has said the police chief told her
earlier only that Prude had over-
dosed on drugs — an autopsy re-
port noted that Prude had PCP in
his system — and did not get a full
account until August, after a
Prude family attorney’s open-re-
quest.
Singletary wrote in an April
email that the mayor “ has been in
the loop” since the day Prude was
placed in custody. Describing the
medical e xaminer’s r uling, S ingle-
tary wrote that Prude’s death was
deemed a h omicide with three “at-
tributing factors: “PCP in his sys-
tem,” “Excited Delirium” and “Re-
sisting Arrest."
The state attorney general
opened an investigation and an-
nounced earlier this month it
would impanel a grand jury to
examine the case, but the police
department’s review cleared the
officers, saying they had acted ap-
propriately.
The documents suggest police
were thinking carefully about h ow
to frame their encounter with

Prude early on. A note on a police
report suggests Prude be listed as
a potential offender rather than
just an “individual.”
“Make him a suspect,” the note
reads. Police believed Prude had
broken a store window a nd unlaw-
fully entered a building, according
to the documents.
Prude’s family quickly enlisted
a lawyer who sought any docu-
ments related to Prude’s interac-
tions with police in March and
filed April 3 for the c ity to preserve
its evidence. But they ran into
delays.
At one p oint, S immons, the d ep-
uty police chief, suggested deny-
ing the request because the case
was still under investigation by
the state attorney general and
could lead to criminal charges.
Stephanie Prince, a lawyer for
the city of Rochester, suggested
showing video to the Prude fam-
ily’s lawyer in person but not giv-
ing a copy.
“This way, the AG is making the
file available to the family’s attor-
ney, but we are not releasing any-
thing to the public,” Prince wrote.
The office of N ew York A ttorney
General Letitia James has said it
never recommended withholding
information. But Prince said the
strategy of withholding copies
came f rom a staffer in t he a ttorney
general’s office. James’s office
could not be reached for com-
ment.
The report released Monday,
which was prepared by Rochester
Deputy Mayor James Smith, also
outlines eight recommendations
for city reforms — including re-
questing a Justice Department re-
view of the death, reexamining
police policies and establishing a
citizen-led panel to suggest fur-
ther overhauls to the department.
The report concludes that the
response to Prude’s death showed
a “culture o f insularity, a cceptance
and, quite frankly, callousness”
within the Rochester Police De-
partment. The officers involved
displayed a “cavalier and unsym-
pathetic attitude” toward Prude,
while department commanders
and investigators did n ot seriously
investigate their conduct, the re-
port states.
“I cannot express strongly
enough we can NEVER return to
‘business as usual,’” Smith wrote.
hannah.knowles@washpost.com
reis.thebault@washpost.com
shayna.jacobs@washpost.com

Records show bid to avoid disclosures in Prude’s death


LIBBY MARCH/FOR THE WASHINGTON POST
Protesters and police face off on Court Street in Rochester on Sept. 4. Police fenced off a portion of Court Street and demanded that people
disperse.The city has joined a slate of others across the country embroiled in protests over the deaths of Black people at the hands of police.

BRENDAN MCDERMID/REUTERS
Rochester Mayor Lovely A. Warren fired Police Chief La’Ron
Singletary, above, on Monday over the Daniel Prude case.

Police in Rochester, N.Y.,
tried to l imit damage in
case of Black arrestee
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