3 Workers At Michigan Youth Facility Charged In The Death Of 16-Year-Old After Allegedly Sitting On His Chest For 12 Minutes
Cornelius Fredericks died after staff members sat on his chest for nearly 12 minutes.
Charges have been filed against three youth facility workers who are accused of killing 16-year-old Cornelius Fredericks by restraining him and sitting on his chest for 12 minutes after he threw a sandwich on April 29, according to CBS News.
Kalamazoo, Michigan prosecutor Jeff Getting held a press conference on Wednesday where he announced that three Lakeside Academy staff members — Michael Mosley, Zachary Solis and Heather McLogan — are facing involuntary manslaughter and second-degree child abuse charges following Fredericks' death.
"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. We will take steps to prevent tragedies like this from occurring in the future and make sure there is accountability," Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said in a statement.
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) began an investigation into the situation when Fredericks died days after Mosley and Solis violently held him down.
Fredericks allegedly threw a sandwich while he was sitting in the Lakeside Academy cafeteria. Mosley and Solis sat on the 16-year-old's chest for about 12 minutes as multiple residents heard him say he could not breathe, according to the MDHHS investigation report.
The teen was in severe medical distress, but McLogan, the facility nurse, waited another 12 minutes before calling for medical assistance or starting CPR. He went into cardiac arrest and died two days later, but the county medical examiner ruled that Fredericks died of "restraint asphyxia," according to family attorney Geoffrey Fieger. Fieger told CBS News that he was calling for murder charges in addition to the ones already filed.
Investigators and local police interviewed staff members and residents, looked over every facility incident report and watched two video recordings of the incident.
"Throwing bread is not a demonstration of imminent threat of harm to self or others and did not warrant physical management," the MDHHS report stated.
Getting wrote Mosley and Solis acted in a "grossly negligent manner" and said it took too long for charges to be filed against the three.
"It's been two months. 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," Getting said.
The MDHHS report found at least 10 violations at Lakeside Academy and has started the process of revoking the facility's license. These violations include charges of failure to follow rules related to resident restraint and discipline.
The facility is designed to house young people who have been through abuse, neglect, or the juvenile justice foster care system.
Since Fredericks' death, all 125 children at the facility have been moved to other places. Fredericks' family is suing Lakeside Academy for $100 million.
“MDHHS continues to mourn the loss of this young man’s life, which came needlessly to an end at the hands of those meant to care for him. We are committed to protecting children and will not accept the completely unnecessary death of a youth who is deprived of the opportunity to grow up, complete his education, begin a career, and start a family," said JooYeun Chang, executive director of the MDHHS Children’s Services Agency.
"Not only is it critical that we hold the agency accountable – we must also improve our policies and practices so that a tragedy like this never happens again,” Chang added.
In a statement, the agency said it would unilaterally ban the use of any kind of physical restraints at all of its licensed and contracted facilities. Technical assistance will be provided to all licensed providers so that they are trained to carry out other de-escalation methods.