Three staff members at a Michigan youth facility have been charged in the death of a 16-year-old boy who screamed “I can’t breathe” before his death while being restrained, authorities said Wednesday.
Michael Mosley of Battle Creek, Zachary Solis of Lansing and Heather McLogan of Kalamazoo are charged with involuntary manslaughter and second-degree child abuse in the May 1 death of Cornelius Fredericks.
Fredericks died two days after he lost consciousness while being restrained at Lakeside Academy, a facility for teens with behavioral problems. At the time, authorities said he was being restrained by staff after throwing a sandwich.
The Kalamazoo County Medical Examiner’s Office said Fredericks was restrained on the ground, resulting in asphyxia.
“In my opinion, the complications of him being restrained, on the ground in a supine position by multiple people, is ultimately what led to his death,” said Dr. Ted Brown, who performed the autopsy.
On Wednesday, Kalamazoo County Prosecutor Jeff Gettings called his death a "tragedy beyond description." Mosley and Solis are further accused of restraining Fredricks, who was black, in a “grossly negligent manner," while McLogan is also accused of failing to seek medical care in a timely manner.
Video footage of the incident shows it took 12 minutes for nurses and staff members to begin CPR and call 911, according to a Michigan Department of Health and Human Services report obtained by MLive.com.
Fredrick's family has filed a $100 million civil rights lawsuit against Lakeside Academy in Kalamazoo and its parent company, Sequel Youth and Family Services.
"The excessive use of restraints and the lack of concern for Cornelius's life draw an eerily similar comparison to that of George Floyd's death," according to the complaint.
Fredericks screamed "I can't breathe" as staff members placed their weight on his chest for nearly 10 minutes, the suit said. Floyd screamed the same phrase when a Minneapolis police officer pinned his knee on his neck for nearly nine minutes.
The three words became a rallying cry for police brutality after Eric Garner yelled the phrase in 2014 while being choked by New York City police officers.
Lake Academy lost its contract with the state to care for youth in the state’s foster care and juvenile justice systems and its license to operate.
Geoffrey Fieger, who represents Fredericks’ family, said the attorney for Sequel Youth Services of Michigan has refused to hand over video of the restraining incident.
“It is time for the perpetrators to come clean,” he said in a statement.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.