Surveillance video released Tuesday shows a Michigan teenager being forcefully restrained by at least seven staff members in a youth facility before his death days later.
Detroit-area attorney Geoffrey Fieger released footage showing 16-year-old Cornelius Fredericks being pushed and held down by staff members at the Lakeside Academy in Kalamazoo after he threw a sandwich in the cafeteria.
Fieger is representing Fredericks’s family in a civil lawsuit that alleges, among other things, that the teenager screamed “I can’t breathe” as he was being restrained for about eight minutes on April 29. Fredericks went into cardiac arrest when being detained and died on May 1, the Associated Press reported Tuesday.
The attorney said during a press call that he received the partial video from the state of Michigan’s Attorney General’s Office. But Fieger said parts of the video were missing.
The footage, which does not include sound, shows several men holding down Fredericks’s arms and legs while others sit on his chest and abdomen. At one point, staff members attempt to sit Fredericks up before he slumps over, and then others begin CPR.
“It is a horrific videotape and it demonstrates what other employees have told us is a culture of fear and abuse at the Lakeside facility,” Fieger said.
“The mechanism for dealing with children in this facility was abuse and fear,” he added. “In fact, suffocation was regularly practiced upon children. They called it ‘fearing.’”
Fredericks’s death was ruled a homicide, and the doctor who conducted the autopsy said he died from asphyxiation, according to the AP.
Two staffers, Michael Mosley and Zachary Solis, and a nurse, Heather McLogan, have been fired and charged with involuntary manslaughter and second-degree child abuse. The charges came eight weeks after Fredericks’s death, The Detroit News reported. Solis and Mosley also face homicide charges.
“Three of the perpetrators have been charged,” Fieger said. “You will see on the videotape that far more people were involved in this killing, and I’m calling on the county’s prosecutor to charge those additional people.”
The teenager’s family is suing Lakeside and its operator, Sequel Youth and Family Services, for $100 million over alleged negligence, according to The Detroit News.
Fredericks became the state’s responsibility after his mother died when his father was incarcerated.
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services had contracted with Lakeside Academy to care for youth in foster care or the juvenile justice system but ended its contracts with the academy last month. The 125 youth being housed at the facility were relocated.