KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — Lawyers and family members of Kalamazoo youth home employees charged with manslaughter in the death of a teen resident say they were following procedure and are ‘victims of circumstance.’
State records show 16-year-old Cornelius Fredericks was restrained April 29 by half a dozen employees at Lakeside Academy, eventually losing consciousness. He died May 1 in the hospital. His death was ruled a homicide caused by complications from restraint asphyxia.
On Thursday, the Kalamazoo County prosecutor issued involuntary manslaughter and second-degree child abuse against three people: Michael Mosley and Zachary Solis, who helped restrain Fredericks, and Heather McLogan, a nurse monitoring the restraint.
High-profile Michigan attorney Geoffrey Fieger, who is representing the teen’s family in a wrongful death lawsuit against Lakeside, is calling for justice.
“He threw apparently … a sandwich and for that a number of staff members suffocated him by doing exactly what was done to George Floyd — sit on his back,” Fieger said in a Thursday video call with News 8.
He said he’s working to get the video showing what happened.
“I know enough right now to know that it’s extremely, extremely gruesome and troublesome,” Fieger said. “(Fredericks) didn’t commit any crime. This is not a police situation. He’s in a home, in essentially foster care paid for by the taxpayers.”
Lakeside, which is on Oakland Drive north of West Kilgore Road, housed and educated young people with behavioral challenges, including youth in foster care and juvenile justice programs. The state was contracted with the facility at the time of Fredericks’ restraint; following his death, the state ended that contract and moved to revoke Lakeside’s license.
“My client is a victim. He is a victim of this circumstance,” Solis’ attorney Don Sappanos said.
He said his client has cooperated with investigators and only restrained Fredericks’ legs.
“This isn’t something that was secreted away in a little side room. This was for all to see in a cafeteria with multiple supervising officials there and my client, we believe the evidence will bear out, never, never left the leg area of the victim,” Sappanos said.
The attorney said Solis was a low-level employee who was following Lakeside procedures during the restraint.
“(There are) multiple people that worked at the facility and were standing there directing and orchestrating this whole event that are not charged,” Sappanos added.
Solis’ mother and father sent their condolences to the boy’s family. They said their son cared deeply for the teen and all the boys at the academy.
“He’d take them out to dinner, he’d take them to movies, he’d take them to basketball games,” Solis’ mother Yolanda Solis said. “He was always, always with those kids. He’d go pick up the parents and bring the parents to visit the kids.”
The attorney for Mosley, Kiana Garrity, said in a Thursday statement it is her understanding that her client was “following Lakeside protocol at all times,” though she had yet to see the video of the restraint.
“That said, Mr. Mosley was a youth counselor – a subordinate – while others on scene were superior personnel. And to my knowledge, these superior personnel have neither been terminated nor reprimanded by Lakeside/their parent company,” Garrity’s statement continued. “Again, Mr. Mosley maintains that he was following protocol at all times. Lakeside officials have released a version of events – multiple times to the media – that deflects responsibility from their own employee policies and procedures. They have attempted to control the narrative but we intend to show the entire truth surrounding the instruction and training of their youth counselors.”
Anastase Markou of Levine & Levine Attorneys is representing McLogan.
“This is a terrible tragedy. Our hearts go out to his loved ones and the Kalamazoo community. However, justice cannot be served by an injustice,” Markou said in a Friday statement. “My client, Heather McLogan, has done nothing criminal and when the evidence is in, she will be vindicated.”
All three defendants are expected to turn themselves in to be formally charged, though it’s not yet known precisely when each will be arraigned.
The prosecutor has indicated more charges may be forthcoming.