On April 29, 16-year-old Cornelius Fredericks died of restraint asphyxia at the Lakeside Academy youth facility in Kalamazoo, Mich., after several Lakeside employees pinned him to the ground for more than 10 minutes after he threw a sandwich at another resident. At least one of those employees reportedly used their full body weight to restrain Fredericks, and after he fell unconscious, staff members waited an additional 12 minutes to call 911.
As a result of this horrific incident, nearly a dozen Lakeside staff members were fired, and in late June, the three employees “most closely responsible for Cornelius’s death” were charged with involuntary manslaughter and second-degree child abuse. Now, surveillance footage of the incident has been released, and it shows the sheer cruelty of what transpired that day. An attorney who represents the Fredericks estate is calling for all employees involved in Fredericks’ death to be charged with crimes.
“You will see on the videotape that far more people were involved in his killing, and I’m calling on the Kalamazoo prosecutor to charge those additional people,” Fieger said.
According to a civil lawsuit filed by Fredericks’s family last month, the teen screamed “I can’t breathe” as the employees restrained him. At one point in the video, they are also seen trying to lift Fredericks’s limp body into a sitting position, but he falls back on the floor.
After several minutes of restraining him and leaving him on the floor, some employees are seen administering CPR.
“He was suffocated for an excess of 10 mins and left to lie on the floor lifeless with no one providing any medical care or treatment, including the nurse,” Fieger said Tuesday. “The nurse just stood over his lifeless body and provided no help whatsoever to Cornelius other than calling 911.”
Last month, The Root reported on Fredericks’ tragic story and included part of a press release sent to us by Marko Law, the Michigan civil rights law firm that is handling the lawsuit on behalf of Fredericks’ estate. In the release, attorney Jon Marko claimed Lakeside has been plagued with “complaints of problems” for years and that “nobody seemed to listen.”
Marko Law also mentioned that it was discovered at the hospital where Fredericks went into cardiac arrest and died two days after the incident, that Fredericks tested positive for COVID-19. After this revelation, it was discovered that almost forty other residents and nine staff members of Lakeside Academy were also positive,” according to the press release. The law firm put the spread of the virus at the facility on Lakeside’s failure to respond properly once news of the pandemic broke worldwide.
In Tuesday’s press conference, Fieger echoed sentiments that Fredericks’ death was only the last incident in a long history of abusive and negligent practices at Lakeside. Fieger claimed that “suffocation was regularly practiced” at the facility as a form of discipline.
According to BuzzFeed, Fredericks became a resident at Lakeside after his mother died and his father was sent to prison.
Lakeside’s license was suspended by the state and all other children in their care were moved to other facilities when the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services began their investigation into Fredericks’ death.
You can view the surveillance footage of the incident below.
WARNING: It’s graphic and very disturbing.