Video released of altercation that led to death of Cornelius Fredericks at Kalamazoo youth home

Posted at 4:40 PM, Jul 07, 2020

SOUTHFIELD, Mich. (WXYZ) — Attorney Geoffrey Fieger released footage of the altercation involving Cornelius Fredericks, a Detroit teenager who died after being restrained in a Kalamazoo youth home.

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Fieger is suing Sequel Youth and Family Services, which owns Lakeside Academy, for $100 million. He says he got the video from the Kalamazoo County Prosecutor's Office and not the facility.

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Fieger says Sequel refused to release it and wanted to settle quietly.

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Fieger says the 18-minute clip, for some unknown reason, jumps twice. Towards the beginning of the altercation, Cornelius threw a sandwich. He was then forced down to the floor and staff restrained him for at least the next eight minutes.

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At one point, there are seven men holding him down.

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Fieger, who says Cornelius was also restrained in January, calls it barbaric. So what could have led to this?

"Children are really powerless, and they're voiceless. The kinds of horrors that we've witnessed on this videotape would never be disclosed to us if Cornelius had survived," Fieger said in a Zoom video conference with news media.

"He's not fighting at all because you'll see his shoes are just... and his feet are just lying there. So while these maniacs, I use the words advisedly because I think that's being kind, are just killing him for no reason whatsoever," he explained.

After the group gets off of Cornelius, staff tried to sit Cornelius upright. But he isn't able to. He slumps over. It takes at least 2 minutes before anyone tried administering CPR.

The medical examiner says the teen went into cardiac arrest after being suffocated. Sadly, Cornelius died 2 days later. The coroner ruled it a homicide.

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"This is what happens when you privatize, and you turn over facilities that really should be much more regulated and overseen," Fieger said.

So far, three people have been charged. The state has pulled the license for Lakeside Academy.

In a statement to 7 Action News, Sequel says:

We continue to mourn the senseless and tragic loss of Cornelius and are aware of the video footage released today. The actions taken by the staff members in that video do not adhere to the Sequel and Lakeside Academy policies and procedures related to the use of emergency safety interventions as trained in the JKM Safe Crisis Management system. Further, those actions are not representative of our core values of accountability, humility, and integrity. We take our obligation to meet the significant behavioral health needs of all our students very seriously and strive to improve the lives of those in our programs by providing excellence in clinical care, therapy, education, and support.

At Sequel, we emphasize de-escalation both with our staff and our students. The staff at Lakeside were trained in our de-escalation techniques. It is our policy to only use restraints as an emergency safety intervention in two situations: 1) when a student exhibits imminent danger to themselves and 2) when a student exhibits imminent danger to others, and in those cases to use the minimal level of intervention possible. Otherwise, a restraint is not an appropriate first response, and restraints are never to be used as a means of coercion, discipline, convenience, or retaliation by staff.