The family of a Black teenager who died while residing at a Kalamazoo juvenile center in May is now suing the facility.
Cornelius Fredericks was a 16-year-old ward of the state living at Lakeside Academy in Kalamazoo. The lawsuit alleges that a staff member placed their weight on Fredericks’ chest after the teenager threw a sandwich. Fredericks screamed he couldn’t breathe and later died in a hospital.
“I just want to know why this happened to my nephew. I’m pretty sure it could have been avoided.” — Tenia Goshay, aunt
Attorney Jon Marko says Fredericks’ residence at Lakeside was a form of foster care.
“Cornelius was not placed there because he was a troublemaker with the law or criminal convictions or violations of probation or parole,” Marko says. “He just didn’t have anyone who was able to care for him when he needed it.”
Marko say Fredericks’ death mirrors that of George Floyd, as both screamed they couldn’t breathe in their final moments of life. Floyd’s highly publicized death occurred one month after Frederick’s. He says while the lawsuit is a civil complaint Frederick’s death is still under investigation.
“I just want to know why this happened to my nephew,” says Tenia Goshay, Frederick’s aunt. “I’m pretty sure it could have been avoided.”
The suit also claims Fredericks tested positive for COVID-19 after entering a hospital for treatment from the incident.
Michigan’s health department suspended its contract with Lakeside Academy after the incident and the state removed 125 minors from the facility. Lakeside had received multiple violations for physically assaulting its residents prior to Frederick’s death.