Thursday, June 25, 2020

Staff members charged in death of Black teen who screamed 'I can't breathe' at Michigan youth center

Posted By on Thu, Jun 25, 2020 at 2:32 PM

click to enlarge Cornelius Fredericks in the hospital before he died. - CORNELIUS FREDERICKS' FAMILY
  • Cornelius Fredericks' family
  • Cornelius Fredericks in the hospital before he died.

Three staff members of a for-profit youth center in Kalamazoo were charged Wednesday in the death of a Black teenager who was improperly restrained for throwing a sandwich.

Cornelius Fredericks, 16, died at a hospital on May 1, 30 hours after he was restrained and went into cardiac arrest at Lakeside Academy. Witnesses said he screamed “I can’t breathe” while one staff member was sitting on his chest.

The charges came on the same day the Kalamazoo County Medical Examiner ruled the death a homicide. Kalamazoo Prosecutor Jeff Getting charged the staff members — Michael Mosley, Zachary Solis, and Heather McLogan — with involuntary manslaughter and second-degree child abuse.

Mosley and Solis are accused of restraining the teen in a “grossly negligent manner,” while McLogan is accused of gross negligence for waiting up to 12 minutes to call 911, even though Frederick was limp and unresponsive.

click to enlarge Cornelius Fredericks. - CORNELIUS FREDERICKS' FAMILY
  • Cornelius Fredericks' family
  • Cornelius Fredericks.

The teen’s estate filed a lawsuit against Lakeside Academy and Sequel Youth and Family Services on Monday, alleging gross and direct negligence under Michigan’s wrongful death act. “It’s a horrible, tragic case," the family’s attorney, Jon Marko, said at a news conference Monday. "We want to make sure this never happens to another child.”

Following an investigation into Fredericks’ death, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services terminated its contract with Lakeside Academy in June. The academy had at least 30 other violations over the past five years, Marko said.

At the hospital, Fredericks tested positive for COVID-19. Follow-up testing at the facility revealed that nearly 40 other residents and nine staffers were also positive for COVID-19.

In a statement, Sequel Youth said it can't comment on "pending legal matters."

"That said, we are deeply saddened by the tragic loss of Cornelius and acted quickly to terminate all staff involved," the statement reads. "Additionally, we have removed the former executive director of Lakeside from the organization. We have been in regular contact with law enforcement and state officials to help ensure justice is served and have accelerated the work that was already underway across our organization to move to a restraint-free model of care. We take our obligation to meet the significant behavioral health needs of all our students incredibly seriously and remain focused on our mission of providing the absolute best care and treatment possible for our clients."

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