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Attorneys release video of 16-year old's death at youth facility, call for more charges

Courtesy of Jonathan Marko

Attorneys for the family of Cornelius Fredericks have released the video documenting the 16-year old's death at a Kalamazoo youth facility. Fredericks died May 1 after being improperly restrained by youth facility staff. The Kalamazoo County medical examiner ruled the death a homicide, and three staff members at the facility are facing criminal charges.

The video shows at least eight people participating in holding down Fredericks after he threw a sandwich in a cafeteria.

“I’m calling on the Kalamazoo Prosecutor to charge those additional people," attorney Geoffrey Fieger said during an online press conference Tuesday. "There are many more than two people suffocating him."

In a statement to Michigan Radio, Kalamazoo County prosecutor Jeff Getting wouldn't rule out the possibility of further charges. 

"The Kalamazoo County Office of the Prosecuting Attorney is continuing to review the investigations that have been completed and to assess the possibility of additional charges against others involved," Getting wrote in an email. "Initially the focus has been on action to bring charges against those we believe to be most responsible."

Fredericks was at Lakeside Academy in Kalamazoo, which offers programs for children with behavioral problems and other challenges. On April 29, the 16-year old was pushed out of his seat for throwing a piece of bread, according to astate investigation of the incident

The video provided by Fieger Law shows the minutes leading up to the incident. Fredericks throws bread at least twice before he’s knocked down. He appears to be talking calmly, even smiling as two staff members stand up and approach him. He continues to break off pieces of bread crust and tosses it underhand toward two residents at the table across from him. That's when a staff member, identified by Feiger as one of the people facing criminal charges, knocked Fredericks from his chair

“Cornelius Fredericks did nothing, he’s a child,” Fieger said. “He threw a sandwich. And he was executed on video tape.”

Michigan Radio is not publishing the video due to its graphic nature and the possibility that other minors who witnessed the incident could by identified.

The video provided by Fieger Law contains several skips, which may indicate portions of the video were altered or deleted.

The video shows the men holding Cornelius Fredericks down for seven minutes and 46 seconds, though the video skips past the moment where Fredericks was released. An investigation by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services concluded Fredericks was held down about 12 minutes total.

“Multiple staff participated in this restraint and several were observed on the video with their weight on Resident A’s chest, abdomen, and legs, making this an unsafe and excessive restraint,” the MDHHS report concluded.

The state cited the restraint as one of the reasons for revoking the license of the Lakeside facility.

The video provided by Fieger Law also skips past some of the time that Fredericks lay unconscious on the floor before the facility’s nurse calls 911. The MDHHS report concluded 12 minutes passed before the 911 call. The video shows about two minutes.

 A spokesperson for MDHHS says the department intends to release its own copy of the video from that day, once it can edit the video to protect the privacy of other residents who appear.  

The three Lakeside staffers who’ve been charged in Fredericks’ death have already been arraigned.

Micheal Mosley and Zachary Solis are facing homicide charges of involuntary manslaughter (felonies that carry up to 15 years) as well as two second degree child abuse charges, each carrying up to 10 years. Heather McLogan, identified by Fieger as the nurse in the video who called 911, is facing involuntary manslaughter and one charge of child abuse.

“There will be further disclosures about the atrocities that occurred in this institution,” Fieger said near the end of the press conference Tuesday. “This was not an isolated case.”

Since Fredericks' death, Michigan's Department of Health and Human Services relocated the youth residents from Lakeside and has taken steps to remove the facility’s license. 

Fieger said he doesn't know where those children are now, and he called on the state to release the information. He says his office has been contacted by four or five children who witnessed Frederick's killing who were traumatized. 

Fredericks' aunt, Tenia Goshay, is suing Lakeside's parent company, Sequel Youth and Family Services, which operates numerous youth treatment and residential facilities in several states, including a second one in Albion. Both Michigan facilities have been the subject of dozens of complaint investigations going back at least the last few years, with numerous findings of violations, including physical abuse and improper restraint by staff. The operators of the facility in Albion say it will close as well, with children being relocated by the end of this month, according to news reports.

Dustin Dwyer reports enterprise and long-form stories from Michigan Public’s West Michigan bureau. He was a fellow in the class of 2018 at the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard. He’s been with Michigan Public since 2004, when he started as an intern in the newsroom.
Emma is a communications specialist with the digital team at Michigan Radio. She works across all departments at Michigan Radio, with a hand in everything from digital marketing and fundraising to graphic design and website maintenance. She also produces the station's daily newsletter, The Michigan Radio Beat.
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