KALAMAZOO, Mich. — Attorney Jon Marko said his goal is to give the family of 16-year-old Cornelius Frederick answers regarding the teen's death.
“They love Cornelius very much. It was very difficult,” Marko said during a Zoom interview Tuesday afternoon. “They feel tremendous guilt for not being able to care for this young man, not being able to support him.”
Marko said Frederick was from Detroit and was a ward of the state. He was a student at Lakeside Academy, a reform school in Kalamazoo.
The Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety reported on Friday May 1 that the 16-year-old died at Bronson Hospital.
“Something went wrong,” said Marko of Marko Law, which is based in Detroit. “Something bad happened. The family does not believe that this was just an accident. We know that there was an incident. We know that Cornelius is now dead as a result.”
KDPS stated on Wednesday April 29, staff members at the academy were in the process of restraining Frederick when he became unresponsive.
When police arrived, Frederick was found in cardiac arrest, they said.
“There’s a condition where if you’re being choked out or asphyxiated, it’s called cardiac asphyxiation,” Marko said. “It means basically if you choke somebody out hard enough and long enough, you can cause them to have a heart attack, if you keep people from getting air.”
The press release also stated that Frederick was immediately taken to Bronson hospital, where he later died.
“Police officers, teachers, facilities like this, are trained in how to restrain children, how to restrain people on a daily basis,” Marko said. “There’s a proper way to do this and there’s an improper way to do this, okay. So under normal circumstances someone would be able to be restrained and not be dead.”
Marko added that his firm is looking forward to reviewing the police department’s investigation and the results of the autopsy report from the medical examiner.
He doesn’t know if there’s surveillance video available. However it's something they’re looking into, he said.
“Cornelius had been restrained before,” Marko said. “So this would not be surprising if this was a situation where they were using a restraint on him and went too far. And, if you choke someone out, you can use a heart attack.”