A disturbing surveillance video has emerged showing at least seven men violently restraining a black teenager, Cornelius Fredericks, at a Michigan youth center, who had a cardiac attack and died two days later.
The surveillance footage from the Lakeside Academy in Kalamazoo was released Tuesday by Detroit-area attorney Geoffrey Fieger, who represents Fredericks’ estate.
It showed the exact moments the 16-year-old was pushed to the floor and savagely pinned down by staffers of the Lake Lakeside Academy in Kalamazoo because he threw a sandwich in the cafeteria where other kids could be seen sitting. The incident happened on April 29.
Fredericks had cardiac arrest as he was being restrained and died two days later. The cause of death has been listed as homicide.
According to a civil lawsuit filed against the youth center on behalf of Fredericks’ family by Fieger, the teenager cried “I can’t breathe” as he was being restrained in the cafeteria for almost 12 minutes, The Associated Press reported.
On the said video, some of the men pulled on and held down Frederick’s arms and legs with others sitting on his chest and abdomen, the outlet reported. The teenager became lifeless when staffers tried to raise him up towards the end of the video before a CPR was performed on him.
“He’s not fighting at all … his shoes and his feet are just lying there,” Fieger said.
According to Fieger, investigations conducted by the state of Michigan revealed that staff members at the youth center also suffocated Frederick as a “form of discipline.”
“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. “One employee told us that in order to work there all you needed was to be breathing and accept $13 per hour.”
“The mechanism for dealing with children in this facility was abuse and fear,” he added. “In fact, suffocation was regularly practiced upon children. They called it ‘fearing.’”
Three staffers – two males and a female – had been fired and charged with involuntary manslaughter and second-degree child abuse in Fredericks’ death.
But Fieger argued that was not enough. “As you can see in the video, far more than two people are involved in suffocating him,” Fieger said. “I would urge them to reconsider other people … who are clearly involved in the killing of Cornelius.”
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services had a contract with Lakeside Academy to care for youths in the state’s foster care and juvenile justice systems. The contract was terminated following the April 29 incident all 125 youth being housed there removed.
Fredericks had been a ward of the state for several years, following his mother’s death when his father was incarcerated.