Weeks before George Floyd cried "I can't breathe" as he died, 16-year-old Cornelius Fredericks made the same plea hundreds of miles away as staff at the childcare facility he lived at used their body weight to pin him to the floor, according to a Michigan state report and a lawsuit filed by his family.
They held him in the restraint for more than 10 minutes after the teen, who was Black, threw a piece of bread, then waited another 12 minutes as he lay "limp and unresponsive" before calling 911, according to the documents. Two days later on May 1, Fredericks went into cardiac arrest and died at a local hospital.
The teen's death drew outrage from his relatives, and other children at the facility were removed while officials investigated. On Wednesday, following investigations by the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, prosecutors filed involuntary manslaughter and child abuse charges against three of the staff members involved in the April 29 restraint and Fredericks' subsequent death.
"That it ever happened is a tragedy beyond description, and we certainly don't want to allow for another young man to have his life taken from him in this way," Kalamazoo County Prosecuting Attorney Jeffrey Getting said as he announced the charges during a press conference.
The announcement came hours after the Kalamazoo County Medical Examiner ruled Fredericks death a homicide, concluding that the 16-year-old died from "restraint asphyxia," WZZM reported.
Last week, the state Department of Health and Human Services concluded in a 62-page report that staff at Lakeside Academy, the private residential youth facility in Kalamazoo, improperly restrained Fredericks and failed to obtain emergency medical care for the boy after he fell unconscious.
Two of the staff members, Michael Mosley, 47, and Zachary Solis, 28, were charged with one count each of involuntary manslaughter for restraining the boy in a grossly negligent manner, a felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison, as well as two second-degree child abuse charges, punishable by up to 10 years.
Heather McLogan, 48, a nurse at the facility, was charged with one count of involuntary manslaughter and one count of second-degree child abuse for failing to seek timely medical care for Fredericks.
The prosecutor said the charges filed were against those "most closely responsible for Cornelius’s death," and that additional charges against other staff members were possible.
A spokesperson for Lakeside Academy told BuzzFeed News the three employees were fired in wake of the incident. Seven other employees who were involved — as well as the facility's executive director — were also let go.
"We strongly support the decision of the prosecutor’s office to bring criminal charges, which was based on a very thorough law enforcement investigation," the academy said in a statement. "We will continue to fully cooperate throughout this process to ensure justice is served. This was a tragic and senseless incident."
As part of the investigation into Fredericks' death, the state also suspended the facility's license, and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said she was taking steps so that company that provided its staffing would no longer work at other facilities.
"Protecting our most vulnerable is a top priority of my administration, and the senseless death of a youth at Lakeside for Children in Kalamazoo is intolerable and heartbreaking," Whitmer said in a statement. "We will take steps to prevent tragedies like this from occurring in the future and make sure there is accountability."
According to the state report, a staff member, who is not identified by name, pushed the boy out of his seat and initiated the restraint after he was observed throwing bread at another student. The staff person initiated the restraint without notifying or consulting a supervisor, as required by the state.
"Throwing bread is not a demonstration of imminent threat of harm to self or others and did not warrant physical management," the report said. "Staff 1 initiated restraint
of Resident A without justification as Resident A was observed sitting on the floor after being pushed from his seat. This is not in line with SCM policy for least restrictive alternatives."
Multiple staff members then assisted in the restraint, putting their weight on Fredericks' chest, abdomen, and legs, "making this an unsafe and excessive restraint," the report added.
According to a lawsuit filed on behalf of Fredericks' estate Monday, the boy screamed, "I can't breathe," as the staff held his body on the ground.
The family's lawsuit described Fredericks as a "hyper and rambunctious" boy who had "a penchant for playing jokes and pranks," but added he was a sweet kid.
“I want to know why this happened,” Fredericks’ aunt Tenia Goshay said during a press conference. “I want some justice for my nephew.”