A Michigan family filed a $100 million wrongful death lawsuit against a behavioral center on Monday, nearly two months after a 16-year-old boy reportedly suffered a fatal heart attack while being restrained by staff.
The Detroit Free Press reported that Cornelius Fredericks, 16, died on May 1, two days after a Lakeside Academy employee restrained him for throwing a sandwich in the facility’s cafeteria. The lawsuit charged that surveillance footage showed a female employee forcing her weight onto Fredericks’ chest for 10 minutes.
Lakeside Academy allegedly waited 12 minutes before calling 911 for Fredericks, who reportedly was unresponsive.
The teen screamed, “I can’t breathe,” before losing consciousness, according to the lawsuit.
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“Cornelius’ scream of ‘I can’t breathe’ was not enough to get the staff members to stop the excessive restraint,” said Jonathan Marko, one of the attorneys representing the teen’s estate.
The lawsuit charged that state officials fielded a “laundry list of complaints” regarding staff mishandling their residents. The suit cited a 2016 incident in which eight employees were allegedly fired for using improper restraint and de-escalation techniques.
“Since 2016, defendants had at least thirty violations investigated through the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) regarding facility and premises maintenance, staff qualifications, discipline, behavior management, resident restraint, and sufficiency of staff,” the lawsuit reads.
On Thursday, the state health department ended their contracts with Lakeside Academy, meaning teens in the foster care and juvenile system would no longer be placed at the Kalamazoo facility. State officials said a total of 125 youth were relocated as a result, according to the Detroit News.
Kalamazoo County Prosecuting Attorney Jeff Getting told the Associated Press on Thursday that his office is reviewing the facts of this case to determine whether criminal charges will be filed in Fredericks’ death.
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[Featured image: Cornelius Fredericks/Marko Law, PLLC]