Suit filed against Rochester, Monroe County, sheriff over tear gas in Daniel Prude protests

ROCHESTER, N.Y. — A lawsuit was filed in federal court Tuesday on behalf of 38 women who say exposure to chemicals like tear gas — during the protests in September 2020 following the death of Daniel Prude — caused severe menstrual issues.

The most common complaints were of severe cramps, unusual spotting, and intense or prolonged bleeding. Some of the women who don’t usually have a menstrual cycle, either due to hormone therapy or age, reported unexpected bleeding.

the suit was filed against the city of Rochester, individual Rochester police officers, Monroe County, and Sheriff Todd Baxter. News10NBC has reached out to the defendants for comment and is waiting to hear back.

The complaint says the suit seeks to hold the city and county liable “for their unlawful policies of responding to protesters exercising their First Amendment rights with extreme and unnecessary force, including the use of tear gas, pepper balls and other chemical weapons.” It adds: “Defendants knew or should have known that these chemical weapons — which are banned in warfare — can cause serious physical harm, including damage to the female reproductive system.”

Prude, a 41-year-old Black man, died March 23, 2020, after being restrained by Rochester police officers when he was having a mental health episode. Officers applied force to Prude’s head and back as he lay on the pavement with a spit bag on his head; and Prude lost consciousness while being restrained and died at the hospital a week later. 

Several demonstrations took place in 2020, in the summer and then in September after the publicizing of body camera footage, and there were a number of confrontations with police that involved tear gas and pepper balls.

This is not the first lawsuit to come out of these protests. One year ago, a woman sued the city, the county and law enforcement after she said tear gas caused her to have a miscarriage.