Surveillance video released Tuesday shows at least seven men holding down aafter being restrained for throwing a sandwich in the cafeteria of a youth facility in Michigan. The footage released to reporters by Detroit-area attorney Geoffrey Fieger shows 16-year-old Cornelius Fredericks pushed to the floor in April before staff members at Lakeside Academy in Kalamazoo begin to hold him down.
Fieger represents Fredericks' estate in a civil lawsuit that says the boy screamed "I can't breathe" as they restrained him. The video (which some viewers might find disturbing) shows the boy restrained for about 8 minutes. The footage had no sound as it was shown to reporters.
Several of the men appear to pull on and hold Fredericks' arms and legs down while others sit or lay atop his chest and abdomen. Toward the end of the video the teen appears limp and falls back to the floor after some staffers attempt to sit him up. Others then move in and start CPR.
Fredericks went into cardiac arrest April 29 while being restrained. He was hospitalized and died two days later, authorities said. The death was ruled a homicide and the doctor who performed the autopsy said Fredericks had been restrained on the ground, resulting in asphyxia.
Fieger said Tuesday that Fredericks had previously been restrained by staff at Lakeside Academy.
"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 Associated Press left a message Tuesday seeking comment from Lakeside Academy and its operator, Sequel Youth and Family Services. Lakeside and Sequel are named in the civil lawsuit.
Two male staffers and a female nurse have been charged in Fredericks' death. They have since been fired by the company.
Fieger said he is urging authorities to recommending charging others.
"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 the other people ... who are clearly involved in the killing of Cornelius."
Fieger said his office had a forensic examiner review the footage and that portions of the videotape are missing.
"It jumps and there suddenly people are no longer in the scene that were there one second before," he added.