Three staff members at a youth facility in Kalamazoo, Michigan, have been charged in the death of a black teenager who died days after being restrained for throwing a sandwich, a county prosecutor announced Wednesday. The decision comes after the county medical examiner ruled the death of 16-year-old Cornelius Frederick a homicide by a result of “restraint asphyxia.”
The three Lakeside Academy staff members — Michael Mosley, Zachary Solis, Heather McLogan — were charged with involuntary manslaughter and second-degree child abuse. According to the charging documents, Mosley and Solis are accused of restraining Frederick in a “grossly negligent manner.” McLogan, who was a nurse at the facility, is accused of failing to seek timely medical care for the teen.”It’s been two months,” prosecutor Jeff Getting told reporters Wednesday. “We needed to make sure that we assess the case and responsibility and took action as soon as possible against those we felt were most responsible. We’ll continue to look at others in the future.” Fredricks became a ward of the state after his mother died and his father was unable to take care of him, according to lawyers who represent his family, adding that Fredericks has four brothers and sisters.An investigation by Michigan’s Department of Health and Human Services found that staffers used a restraint that was “significantly disproportionate” after Fredericks threw a sandwich in the facility’s cafeteria on April 29. Multiple staff members attempted to restrain the teen, with one sitting on Fredericks’ chest for about 12 minutes, the report said.Witnesses said Fredericks expressed that he “couldn’t breathe” during the restraint. After releasing him, the report found that another 12 minutes went by before staffers sought medical attention or attempted CPR. Fredericks went into cardiac arrest and died two days later.”Throwing bread is not a demonstration of imminent threat of harm to self or others and did not warrant physical management,” the health department report said.The county medical examiner on Wednesday ruled the death as a homicide and said the teen died as a result of “restraint asphyxia,” according to attorney Geoffrey Fieger, who represents Fredericks’ family. Fieger has called on prosecutors to bring murder charges against the staffers.
Fieger, in an interview with CBS News, applauded the prosecutor for bringing charges against the staffers but is waiting to review video of the incident before determining whether the charges are sufficient. Figer earlier this week filed a lawsuit against Lakeside Academy and its parent company, Sequel Youth and Family Services, seeking $100 million in damages under the Michigan Wrongful Death Act. The attorney compared the case to George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis, who said “I can’t breathe” before his death in police custody.
Michigan had contracted Lakeside Academy to provide care for youth in the juvenile justice and foster care systems. The health department revoked the facility’s license after the Division of Child Welfare Licensing found 10 violations, including a “failure to follow rules related to resident restraint and discipline.””Protecting our most vulnerable is a top priority of my administration, and the senseless death of a youth at Lakeside for Children in Kalamazoo is intolerable and heartbreaking,” Governor Gretchen Whitmer said after facility’s license was revoked. “We will take steps to prevent tragedies like this from occurring in the future and make sure there is accountability.”