16-year-old Cornelius Fredericks died on May 1 after being restrained for throwing a sandwich in the cafeteria of a youth facility in Michigan.
Trigger Warning: The story has details of racism and descriptions of murder that readers might find disturbing
Surveillance video released Tuesday shows at least seven adults holding down and sitting on 16-year-old Cornelius Fredericks, the Black teen who died on May 1 after being restrained for throwing a sandwich in the cafeteria of a youth facility in Michigan. According to CBS News, the disturbing footage was released to reporters by Detroit-area attorney Geoffrey Fieger, who is representing the teen's family in a civil lawsuit that says the boy screamed "I can't breathe" as he was being restrained. According to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS), Fredericks was restrained for about 12 minutes—two minutes longer than the staff members' training allows, reports Insider.
The attorney representing Cornelius Fredericks' estate released video showing the 16-year-old being restrained by staff in April and being given chest compressions -- while he appears to be unresponsive on the floor. https://t.co/LUUQo4Am4l pic.twitter.com/UDWx0T7m6s— CNN (@CNN) July 8, 2020
"It is a horrific videotape and it demonstrates what other employees have told us is a culture of fear and abuse at the Lakeside facility," Fieger said during a virtual news conference on Tuesday. "One employee told us that in order to work there, all you needed was to be breathing and accept $13 per hour in pay. Other than that, they would hire anyone." He added that someone who worked at the facility had dubbed it the "death row academy."
Attorney Geoffrey Fieger released security video showing the restraint that killed 16 year old #CorneliusFredericks. Images show the teen was first knocked to the ground then restrained for 12 minutes for throwing a sandwich in the Lakeside Academy cafeteria. @wwmtnews pic.twitter.com/gp7o9JMc8t— Mike Krafcik (@Mkrafcik) July 7, 2020
In the video, several of the men involved are seen pulling on and holding Fredericks' arms and legs down while others sat or lay atop his chest and abdomen. Towards the end of the footage, the teen appears limp and falls back to the floor when some staffers attempt to sit him up. Others then move in and start CPR. Fredericks went into cardiac arrest on April 29 while being restrained. Authorities revealed that although the teen was hospitalized, he died two later. The medical examiner ruled Fredericks' death a homicide caused by complications from restraint asphyxia.
Cornelius Fredericks died two days after several members of a Michigan youth facility pinned him to the ground and sat on him for more than 10 minutes. His last words were, “I CAN’T BREATHE!😢😡😢 pic.twitter.com/5zOHNJ7Sap— Slick-L&M (@LamontSlickEm) July 8, 2020
Speaking to MLive, Dr. Ted Brown, who conducted the autopsy, said that "the complications of him being restrained, on the ground in a supine position by multiple people, is ultimately what led to his death." Two male staffers and a female nurse—Michael Mosley, Zachary Solis, and Heather McLogan—have been charged with involuntary manslaughter and second-degree child abuse in connection with his death. They have since been fired by the company. However, Fieger said he is urging authorities to also charge the others involved. "As you can see in the video, far more than two people are involved in suffocating him," he said. "I would urge them to reconsider the other people... who are clearly involved in the killing of Cornelius."
Three staff members at a Michigan youth home have been charged in the death of Cornelius Fredericks. The 16-year-old died on May 1 from asphyxia after being held down by the staffers for about 12 minutes after throwing a piece of bread on the floor. https://t.co/sxdcciywn5— NPR (@NPR) June 25, 2020
The attorney revealed that Fredericks wound up at Lakeside after his mother died in her sleep, an incident that was extremely traumatizing for the teenager. "When she passed away, his father had been imprisoned so effectively he was an orphan and he had no one to stay with... and that's why he was there," he said. "He was a gregarious, well-liked child. He was a mentor for younger children." But, Fieger added, "he was executed... for the crime of throwing a sandwich."
"A gaggle of employees pounced on him. You'll see his feet lifelessly lying there and you'll see these employees suffocating him to death. He urinated on himself. They deprived him of oxygen and his brain suffered irreversible... damage," Fieger said during the virtual news conference. "What occurred to me as I watched this videotape is that the employees of this institution don't consider these children to be human beings." The attorney revealed that Lakeside for Children declined to share the video with the legal team without a guarantee that it wouldn't be released to the media.
I would bet anything that the staff who killed Cornelius Fredericks -i watched the video today, no audio- said similar things. Accused him of faking. The big man who knelt on his shins, my god. Do you know how painful that is? I do. That young man deserved his dignity and life.— Kenz (@KenzInCali) July 9, 2020
He added that the footage they ultimately received appears to be edited because it jumps around and some sections are missing. "It jumps and there suddenly people are no longer in the scene that were there one second before," said Fieger. Fredericks' family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Lakeside for Children in Kalamazoo and its staffing contractor, Sequel Youth and Family Services. Sequel also tried to negotiate a settlement," said Fieger, saying that Fredericks' "life was worth less than a million dollars. It's intolerable."