Staff Members Restrained Michigan Teen Who Later Died With Weight On Chest: Report

A Michigan Department of Health and Human Services investigation found that a teen in the care of Lakeside for Children died after staff members restrained him by putting their weight on his chest and abdomen.

Sixteen-year-old Cornelius Frederick, a ward of Michigan, died on May 1 at a local hospital, following an April 29 encounter with staff members at Lakeside For Children after he threw a sandwich. In response, several staff members approached the teenager and restrained him, Capt. Craig Habel of the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety confirmed to Habel said when staff realized the teen was unresponsive, they called for emergency responders who arrived and discovered he was in cardiac arrest.

According to the executive summary released by MDHHS, "multiple staff participated in this restraint and several were observed on the video with their weight on [Frederick's] chest, abdomen and legs, making this an unsafe and excessive restraint." The summary also says the restraint was not part of the treatment plan for the teen, that the staff members reacted "significantly disproportionate" to his behavior and that no one else among other staff, nurses or supervisors stepped in to stop or correct the restraint.

The MDHHS investigation determined 10 violations connected to the facility, including that the staff present waited "approximately 12 minutes" after Frederick was removed from the restraint to call 911, despite policies instructing that emergency responders be called immediately. Additionally, no one administered first aid to the teenager.

The failure to call for paramedics was despite Frederick being "limp and unresponsive," and concerns over his "coloring and pulse," the summary said. The nurse in charge who failed to act was fired from her job, the summary said.

An autopsy was performed following Frederick's death, but the results have not been publicly released.

Following an investigation, MDHHS found a number of violations and recommended revoking the child care facility's license, as stated in the executive summary. The state began the legal process to revoke the license on Thursday, MDHHS said in a press release.

Other violations include failure to discipline after two residents physically restrained a third, failure to conduct proper background checks on employees, failure to obtain medical consent forms for residents and failure to perform COVID-19 screenings for all visitors to the facility. Lakeside for Children saw 37 children and nine staff members tested positive for the novel coronavirus in early May, WWMT-TV reported.

MDHHS Children's Services Agency executive director JooYeun Chang said the agency must be held accountable, especially following Frederick's death.

"MDHHS continues to mourn the loss of this young man's life, which came needlessly to an end at the hands of those meant to care for him. We are committed to protecting children and will not accept the completely unnecessary death of a youth who is deprived of the opportunity to grow up, complete his education, begin a career, and start a family. Not only is it critical that we hold the agency accountable – we must also improve our policies and practices so that a tragedy like this never happens again," Chang said in a statement.

With Lakeside's license being revoked, the 125 residents currently living at the facility have been moved to others throughout the state based on their needs. MDHHS also announced Thursday that physical restraint is now banned in all contracted and licensed facilities working with the state agency.

MDHHS said that Lakeside can appeal the license revocation to the Michigan Office of Administrative Hearings and Rules.

"I think Lakeside's license should be revoked, and I think that all of Sequel's facilities should be shut down. I don't think they should be allowed to be in business anymore. The sad thing is that it took the death of this young boy in order to bring this about. It shouldn't have come this far," Jon Marko, the Frederick family's lawyer, told Newsweek. Sequel is the management company that owns Lakeside.

Marko added that reports to the management company about the restraints went unheard.

"There were reports to Sequel....that the restraints were dangerous. The way that they were handling this was dangerous. There were reports of injuries to students, and nobody did anything about it. These cries for help from a state senator, from the public, from the people in that facility, went unheard. I think it's good that the state and that everyone else is now focusing on the bad things that happen there, but I think they shouldn't happen in the first place. There was an opportunity to stop the death of this kid," Marko said.

Newsweek attempted to contact Lakeside for Children, but could not reach a spokesperson. The facility's executive director did not respond to an emailed request for comment in time for publication. Sequel also did not respond to Newsweek's emailed request for comment in time for publication.

A State of Michigan Department of Health and Human Services office that is currently closed dot to Cover 19 in Detroit, Michigan on March 26, 2020. MDHHS revoked a facility's license following a teen's death on Friday. JEFF KOWALSKY/AFP/Getty