Editor’s note: This story contains an edited version of a graphic video released by Fieger Law showing an incident where a teen was restrained and later died. This video has been edited to protect the identities of uninvolved minors in another part of the room. A link to the full video has been made available.
A partial video has been released Tuesday in the death of a 16-year-old boy, who was restrained by Kalamazoo youth staff for allegedly throwing a sandwich, but portions of the footage are missing, the family’s attorney said.
Attorney Geoffrey Fieger released a portion of the video showing Cornelius Frederick, who resided at Lakeside Academy, being held down by facility staff for 10 minutes during lunch.
The videotape was released to Fieger by the Kalamazoo prosecutor’s office after the facility refused to do so without a nondisclosure agreement, Fieger said during a virtual press conference.
The teen’s family is suing the school and the company, Sequel Youth Services, that owns it for $100 million, alleging negligence. The lawsuit alleges staff sat on his chest for 10 minutes as he screamed that he couldn’t breathe.
“The video is horrific and graphic. However, it appears that portions of the video have been deleted,” Fieger said. “We have not determined yet if Lakeside For Children is responsible for the missing footage.”
Headquartered in Dallas since 1999, Sequel Youth Services touts its “extensive spectrum of programs” to serve youth struggling with challenging behavioral, addiction, psychiatric, emotional or conduct disorders, as well as autism and other conditions, according to its website. It has nearly 60 locations nationwide.
Sequel Youth Services did not immediately respond to requests for comment Tuesday.
Frederick was placed at the facility after his mother died in her sleep at 32 years old. Neither his father nor other family was able to provide care for him, Fieger said.
The case drew wide condemnation and the cancellation of a state contract with the facility. Three staff members allegedly involved were fired and have been charged in the case. The family’s attorney points to the “eerily similar” circumstances to George Floyd, who died in Minnesota after a police officer knelt on his neck for more than eight minutes May 25 as he cried out that he couldn’t breathe.
Kalamazoo Prosecutor Jeffrey Getting announced charges against Michael Mosley, Zachary Solis and Heather McLogan almost eight weeks after Frederick’s death on May 1.
Mosley and Solis face the same charges: homicide and involuntary manslaughter, a 15-year felony; second-degree child abuse, a 10-year felony; and child abuse, second-degree child care organization violation, a 10-year felony.
McLogan faces two offenses: involuntary manslaughter for alleged gross negligence for failure to perform or timely seek medical care for Frederick, a 15-year felony; and child abuse, second-degree child care organization, a 10-year felony.
The state said last week that it had terminated its contracts with Lakeside Academy for youth in foster care or the juvenile justice system. All 125 youth at Lakeside were placed elsewhere, the state said.
Two dozen teenagers in the cafeteria witnessed the incident as they ate lunch. At one point early in the video, which does not have audio, young men are seen moving their seats to avoid watching the scene.
In the video, at least six people are involved in holding Frederick down while a nurse watched. Fieger is calling on the prosecutor’s office to charge more than just three.
While being suffocated, Frederick urinated on himself, his shoes were off and he was lying on his back, Fieger said. As the staff pulled him up after 10 minutes, Frederick could not sit up. Staff left him lying on the floor for an unknown length of time as the video jumps forward to a man doing chest compressions in an empty cafeteria.
There are several spots in the video where the frames jump, indicating there is time missing.
GRAPHIC CONTENT: A partial video has been released Tuesday in the death of a 16-year-old boy, who was restrained by Kalamazoo youth staff for allegedly throwing a sandwich. (This video has been edited to protect the identities of the uninvolved minors present). The Detroit News
You can download and watch the full video here – CONTENT WARNING: This video contains disturbing images
Frederick suffered irreversible brain damage and was kept alive by life support.
“As I watched this videotape, just looking at him barely able to bend over, the employees of this institution don’t consider these children to be human beings,” Fieger said. “This wasn’t anyone’s child. As far as they are concerned, Cornelius wasn’t a human being. He was a commodity.”
Fieger called on the state to pass stricter laws on the privatization of youth facilities that are run by for-profit ventures where “institutionalized children who have no choice in the matter.”
Other people who claim to be survivors of child institutions joined the Zoom call and said the incident was not surprising.
Fieger said this was not an isolated occurrence.
“This place was more than a snake pit,” Fieger said. “The main goal of this place was the bottom line … and the children were ruled by fear. One employee — and we have this in writing — referred to the Lakeside Academy for children as ‘death row academy.’
“I’m sure there are others,” Fieger said.
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