At least six staff at a youth facility in Michigan have detained a black teenager until he lost consciousness, the security camera video of the fatal incident released on Tuesday shows.
Cornelius Fredericks, 16, died in a hospital two days after staff from the Lakeside Academy of Kalamazoo, which houses children in foster care and juvenile justice systems, attacked and detained Cornelius for 12 minutes, allegedly for throwing a sandwich. The medical examiner said his death was a homicide.
The video, which does not include audio, shows that immediately after Cornelius threw the sandwich at another teenager in the cafeteria on April 29, a staff member pulled him out of his seat and onto the floor. For the next few minutes, at least six staff members held Cornelius to the ground, the video shows. After releasing him, staff members try to revive him before the video clip ends.
Last month, the Kalamazoo County prosecutor charged staff members Zachary Raul Solis, 28, and Michael Joshua Mosley, 47, with manslaughter and second-degree child abuse for their participation in restraint. . The prosecutor also charged Heather Newton McLogan, 48, a nurse, of manslaughter and second-degree child maltreatment, alleging that she did not seek timely medical care; she did not call 911 until 12 minutes after the restraint ended.
The three staff members charged have not yet filed a plea, but their lawyers have indicated their intention to continue the prosecution.
On June 22, Cornelius’ family filed a civil lawsuit against Lakeside Academy and Sequel Youth and Family Services, which operates the establishment, for damages. Family lawyer Geoffrey Fieger said he obtained a security video of the restraint from the prosecutor’s office.
According to a June 17 state investigation report, at least three of the male staff members who “untied” Cornelius were over 6 feet tall and weighed 215 pounds or more, which concluded that Lakeside Academy had no not followed the state licensing rules on restraint systems.
Staff members told state investigators that Cornelius threatened to attack them by freeing him from restraint. However, the family’s trial says Cornelius was already in pain and said “I can’t breathe” while he was being held. After releasing Cornelius, staff members tried to make him sit down, but his body fell backwards, the video shows. Cornelius urinated on himself during the restraint, Fieger said Tuesday.
“Unless you spot bugs and maggots, they thrive,” Fieger told reporters during a teleconference on Tuesday. “Certainly, this type of behavior is not human. It can only be compared to a kind of subhuman type which would inflict this behavior on children. “
Sequel fired 10 employees of the Lakeside Academy, including the three accused.
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In a statement, Sequel called Cornelius’ death “senseless and tragic” and said, “The actions taken by staff in this video do not follow the policies and procedures of Sequel and the Lakeside Academy. The statement added that staff at Lakeside Academy have been trained in the company’s de-escalation techniques and that restraint systems should only be used when children are a threat to themselves or to others. Restraint “is not an appropriate first response,” said Sequel.
Sequel declined to comment on the dispute.
No one answered the phone on Tuesday at the Lakeside Academy. All residents were removed from the facility after the death of Cornelius.
Mosley’s lawyer Kiana Garrity said the video did not show that Cornelius had threatened his peers before throwing food away. “They didn’t detain him for throwing food as alleged,” said Garrity. “It’s a story invented by Lakeside. They lie between their teeth to cover up their policies. “
Donald Sappanos, a Solis lawyer, said the three staff members would be acquitted because they followed the rules in the employee manual.
Anastase Markou, McLogan’s lawyer, said that her client was the only one to call 911 and that she was blamed for waiting too long. “She was charged with not doing something based on some form of legal obligation, which I am still trying to decide what legal obligation she had,” said Markou.
McLogan told state investigators that she initially thought Cornelius was “simulating” his loss of consciousness. The video shows McLogan performing CPR on Cornelius before paramedics arrived.
The restraint lasted 12 minutes, according to a state investigation, but the video shows only 8 minutes. Fieger said he doesn’t know why the video is incomplete and contains clippings, but his office has a file examined by a digital examiner. Fieger said he had to get a copy of the video from the prosecutor’s office because Sequel would only publish it if he agreed not to share it with the public.
“They are very concerned about their financial impact,” said Fieger. “I have not seen any concern from them regarding the abuse of children. “
Sequel did not respond to Fieger’s statement on the video.
When the paramedics arrived, they gave Cornelius several doses of epinephrine and he picked up a pulse. But his condition declined after being taken to hospital and he died on May 1, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.
The video shows that many other young people watched staff members restrict Cornelius while they continued to eat their lunch for several minutes, until staff members began to urge them to leave the room.
Cornelius was placed at Lakeside Academy as a ward of the state after the death of his mother and the state found his father incapable of caring for him. Unlike some of the other children who were housed there, he was not involved in the juvenile justice system.
An investigation by NBC News last year found that several children have complained that staff at facilities run by Sequel in other states have used improper physical restraint to control the children, resulting in some cases loss of consciousness. A former staff member at a Sequel facility in Iowa told NBC News that she had seen staff members use inappropriate and physically abusive restraints on children during the approximately seven months she worked there.
Sequel said last year that it would start using a trauma-informed crisis management approach that would minimize the use of restraint in all of its facilities nationwide.
After Cornelius’ death, the company said in a statement, “We have accelerated the work that was already underway in our organization to move to a model of care without constraints with each Sequel program. “
The Department of Health and Social Services has proposed revoking the Lakeside Academy license after the death of Cornelius. Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, has asked the ministry to ensure Sequel no longer works with the state.