In a call with reporters and advocates, attorneys for the 16-year-old who died in a Michigan youth facility showed a 10-minute-long video of employees restraining the teen after he threw the sandwich.
In it, several staff members with Lakeside Academy in Kalamazoo surround Cornelius Frederick, eventually tackling him to the ground and laying on his legs, chest, and neck. While footage from the incident only shows Frederick's feet, those restraining him can be seen pressing on his upper torso.
Geoffrey Fieger, who is representing the family against the academy and its parent company Sequel Youth and Family Services, called the acts "subhuman" and said at least one person who saw the act said he heard Frederick screaming "I can't breathe." The attorney also said it's not the only child to die in the care of the company.
"He was executed on April 29 of this year, going into May 1 for the crime of throwing a sandwich," Fieger said over a Zoom call Tuesday. "Then a gaggle of employees pounced on him."
The video starts with an upper-corner shot of a sparsely filled cafeteria. Two adults can be seen standing around Frederick. When Frederick tosses his sandwich to another table, one employee jumps on the teen and pushes him to the ground. Frederick throws another sandwich and two more adults fall on top of him.
Several minutes of struggling ensues, where up to seven adults can be seen pressing on top of him. Eventually, the struggling ceases at which point staff members begin getting off of Frederick. Several more minutes pass where the teen lays motionless on the ground. By this time, several kids in the cafeteria have left the room. Eventually, staff begins performing CPR while a nurse calls 911.
While Frederick officially died on May 1, he's believed to have had brain damage during the restraining due to suffocation.
At least two staff members and a nurse have been charged in the case, however, Fieger said he plans to argue more should also be prosecuted.
The Southfield-based attorney also contended the video had been cut and said they had sent a copy of the footage to a forensic specialist for review.
Frederick was a ward of the state after his mom died and his father was imprisoned. He had spent two years at the facility.
In response to Frederick's death, the state said it had terminated its contracts with the foster care service and placed the youth that were staying there elsewhere. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has also said she urged the Health and Human Services Department to cut ties with Sequel Youth and Family Services.
Sequel also said they terminated the staff members involved as well as the program leadership. They also said in a statement:
"We continue to mourn the senseless and tragic loss of Cornelius. 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. We take our obligation to meet the significant behavioral health needs of all our students very seriously."
It wasn't just Michigan reporters on the Zoom call either. In addition to a reporter identifying herself as from Vice News, there was also a state senator from Oregon and an expert on troubled teens. Both indicated that Sequel Youth and Family Services were involved in other cases where kids have died in the service of facilities operated by them.
Michigan Health and Human Services officials told the Associated Press in June that an investigation into the private academy found 10 licensing violations, including a failure to follow rules related to resident restraint and discipline.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.