Security surveillance video released Tuesday showed a 16-year-old boy who threw a sandwich at another teen being restrained until he lost consciousness at a Michigan youth facility. That child, Cornelius Fredericks, died May 1, two days after the incident at Lakeside Academy, a facility that houses children in foster care or the juvenile justice system, according to NBC News. Fredericks, a ward of the state, wasn’t involved in the juvenile justice system and was only at the facility because his mother died and his father was deemed unable to take care of him, the news network reported.
At least three of the staff members shown piling on top of Fredericks were more than 6 feet tall and weighed at least 215 pounds, according to a state special investigation report addressed to Steven Laidacker, executive director of the facility. “Due to the severity of the violations, disciplinary action against your license is recommended,” an investigator stated in the letter.
Former nurse Heather Newton McLogan and staff members Zachary Raul Solis and Michael Joshua Mosley—who were all fired along with seven other staff members at the facility—were also charged with involuntary manslaughter and second-degree child abuse in the incident. McLogan is accused of waiting 12 minutes after the child was restrained to call 911, state officials reported. Fredericks’ family also filed a civil lawsuit against the facility on June 22, accusing the facility of negligence.
"In fact, video from Lakeside Academy even shows a staff member placing his/her weight directly on Cornelius's chest for nearly ten minutes as Cornelius lost consciousness," an attorney stated in the lawsuit. "Cornelius's scream of 'I can't breathe' was not enough to get the staff members to stop the excessive restraint."
Neither was the child urinating on himself, the family's attorney Geoffrey Fieger told NBC News. "Certainly this type of behavior is not human,” he said. “It can only be akin to a subhuman-type species that would inflict this behavior on children."
The facility has had more than 30 investigations since 2016 regarding staff qualifications, discipline, behavior management, resident restraint, and premise maintenance, attorney Tenia Goshay said in the suit. The staff members named in the suit were accused of violating policy in six different incidents involving the "improper use of de-escalation techniques" or "improper restraints," Goshay said in the suit. "The documented history and repeated investigations of Defendants' improper use of restraints on residents should have put the Defendants on notice that change was needed," the attorney said in the suit.
Sequel Youth and Family Services, which oversees Lakeside Academy, called Fredericks' death "senseless and tragic. The actions taken by the staff members in that video do not adhere to the Sequel and Lakeside Academy policies and procedures," the family services business said.
However, Anastase Markou, McLogan's lawyer, told NBC News his client thought the child was "faking" his loss of consciousness. "She's been accused of not doing something based on some form of legal duty, which I'm still trying to decide what legal duty she had," Markou told the news network.
Kiana Garrity, Mosley's attorney, told NBC News Fredericks threatened his peers. "They did not restrain him for throwing food as alleged," Garrity said. "That's a made-up narrative by Lakeside. They're lying through their teeth to cover their policies."
Donald Sappanos, one of Solis’ attorneys, predicted all three staff members charged would be acquitted because they followed their employee handbook, NBC News reported.