16 Year Old Dies During Restraint at Leake & Watts Residential Treatment Center
4/ 25/1995 – 4/18/2012
Corey Foster died of heart failure during a restraint at the Leake & Watts Residential Treatment center in Yonkers, New York on April 18th, 2012. Leake & Watts presented Corey with an award for excellence only hours before he died.
Corey was loved by many, and his death spurred outrage in his community. Friends and family took to the streets to rally for justice for the young boy. His funeral was held on a friday, April 27th. The funeral was held 2 days after what would have been Corey’s 17th birthday.
Leake & Watts boy’s death: ‘I can’t breathe,’ boy shouts after staffers piled onto him, witness says
WILL DAVID AND SHAWN COHEN
YONKERS — The 16-year-old boy who died Wednesday night shouted, “I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe!” as eight staff members piled onto him during a violent confrontation on a basketball court at Leake & Watts residential treatment center, a witness told The Journal News/LoHud.com today.
Corey Foster was being ordered to leave the gym with other students when he took a shot that ricocheted off the basket into the head of one employee. Another worker then pushed Foster against a wall, and Foster “went for his leg,” said witness William Green, 18. That’s when the staffers converged and took Foster down, Green said.
After Foster said he couldn’t breathe, one staffer replied, “If you can’t breathe, you wouldn’t be talking.” That same person then punched Foster in the head, Green said, adding “I saw the fist connect.” Green, as he was being forced out, said he saw foam coming out of Foster’s mouth.
The account mirrors the statements of two other witnesses, who said several boys were shooting hoops when the staff ordered them to clear the court so they could play. Staff piled onto Foster after he became angry, they said.
“When they got off of him, he was on the ground and wasn’t responsive,” said Antonio Reeder, 17, a resident.
The other witness, Malik Legree, 17, said Foster “was angry that he was being pushed off” the court.
Police are reviewing video from the gym at the Biondi Education Center, questioning witnesses and awaiting autopsy results to try to determine how Foster died and whether there was any criminal wrongdoing. Yonkers Detective Lt. Patrick McCormack said police are aware of the witness accounts and that “it’s possible” people could be charged in the case.
“It could turn out that way, but right now, there are no indications” of any criminality, McCormack said. “It’s all going to have to be looked at.”
John Francis, a student who knew the dead teen, said that Foster was from New York City and that he had been physically restrained before by school staff and taken into classrooms to calm down. Francis himself has been physically restrained by teachers before and described it as “pretty rough. They just hold you down.”
In some instances, he said, students are restrained by choke holds. “It’s not appropriate,” he said. “They have to be more careful.”
Foster, whose address was listed as Leake & Watts at 463 Hawthorne Ave., was rushed to St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Yonkers, where he was pronounced dead.
“Last evening, a 16-year old resident of the Residential Treatment Center died following basketball play at the school gymnasium. Many staff and residents were present at this recreational activity. As soon as there was any indication that the young man needed medical intervention, on campus medical personnel and 911 were summoned immediately. We are deeply saddened by this tragedy and our hearts go out to this young man’s family and all who loved him.
“At this time we cannot speak to any of the details of the cause of his death pending the outcome of the police and medical examiner’s investigations.
“We are fully cooperating with these investigations and will continue to do so going forward. At this time, out of respect for his family and their privacy, we will not be releasing any personal details of this young man.
“The loss of any life, especially one so young, is heart wrenching. We all mourn the tragic death of this young man.”
Lt. McCormack gave this account this morning: Foster was playing basketball and there was a dispute on the court. Multiple Leake & Watts staffers restrained the boy and he went into cardiac arrest. While they were restraining him, the police were called.
When police arrived, Foster was lying unresponsive on the gym floor with ambulance workers and school staff administering CPR, McCormack said. Members of the police Emergency Services Unit also tried to revive Foster as he was taken by ambulance to the hospital. He was pronounced dead in the hospital emergency room at 9:22 p.m.
McCormack said it was Leake & Watts staffers who restrained the boy, not the police. “We did not restrain him at any time. We actually assisted in resuscitating him,” McCormack said.
“This is an open and active investigation,” McCormack said, adding that detectives spent the night interviewing teachers, students and school staff. “No one has been charged criminally at this time.”
McCormack confirmed that the gym had surveillance cameras and police were reviewing the video today.
Fellow students described Foster as a big young man, 6 foot 1 or 6 foot 2 and heavy, well-built.
The Westchester Medical Examiner’s Office is conducting an autopsy and said results were not expected until Friday
At Leake & Watts this morning, security guards were stopping and checking every car at the main entrance on Hawthorne Avenue.
Shelton Anderson, 15, a non-resident student who lives in the Bronx, said that he knew Foster for four or five years. Foster started living on campus recently because something happened to his grandmother, Anderson said.
Foster was a nice kid, Anderson said, but: “He was a little off. He would just wild out. If someone said something wrong about him, he would go crazy.”
John Gray, a non-resident student arriving at the campus this morning, said he knew Corey Foster for months. He said Foster wasn’t loud but he wasn’t quiet either.
“It’s a shame that happened,” Gray said. “No one deserves to die.”
Gray said he was surprised at the death because there are fights, but the staff usually stops it and calms it down. “If there’s a fight, they just break it up like any other school,” Gray said.
On Foster’s death, he said: “It went the wrong way. Mistakes happen.”
Police were called to the non-profit facility which caters to troubled youth about 8 p.m. Wednesday.
The school specializes in educating students with emotional and social difficulties, according to the Leake & Watts website.
Police have, in recent years, been called upon to deal with students at the school suspected of violent crimes.
In May 2009, a 20-year-old resident at the Leake & Watts home at the same Hawthorne Avenue address was accused of sexually molesting an employee of the institution.
In September 2008, a 17-year-old student was arrested after swinging a pair of scissors at a school monitor.
Corey Foster death: Supporters plan rally at Leake & Watts
Supporters of Corey Foster are planning to rally outside of Leake & Watts in Yonkers Friday afternoon to demand that the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office hold those responsible for the teen’s death “accountable,” lawyers said this afternoon.
Foster, 16, died April 18 after several staffers at Leake & Watts restrained him during an argument on the facility’s basketball court. Officials have not said how many staffers are involved, but they have denied what witnesses have said, which is that up to 8 adults held the teenager down as he shouted that he couldn’t breathe.
The rally scheduled for 1 p.m. and supporters will demand that Yonkers police interview witnesses that might have seen Foster’s death, as well as demand an end to child abuse in all residential care facilities.
No charges have been filed in the case, though the District Attorney’s Office has met with Foster’s family and their lawyer, Jacob Oresky.
The lawyer has said that he is seeking video of the incident, as the family also considers legal action.
Corey Foster, who died after being restrained by staffers at Leake & Watts residential treatment facility in Yonkers, had an enlarged heart, and marks on his neck consistent with being put in a “chokehold or headlock,” the family’s lawyer said Tuesday.
Lawyer Jacob Oresky told The Journal News he had a well-known licensed medical examiner in New York review the autopsy report and the doctor gave the opinion that Foster died of cardiac arrest as a result of being “deprived of oxygen” at Leake & Watts.
The medical examiner, whom Oresky declined to identify, also noted that the autopsy showed Foster had an enlarged heart, a condition his parents weren’t aware of, Oresky said.
“It was his opinion that the headlock or chokehold combined with four men on top of him was much more than Corey’s heart could bear,” Oresky said.
The Westchester County Medical Examiner’s Office has said the death was an accident and the 16-year-old Foster died April 18 of sudden cardiac arrest during an excited state while being subdued.
The Medical Examiner’s Office would not release the autopsy report and has declined to answer questions about the findings, referring inquires to the District Attorney’s Office. District attorney’s spokesman Lucian Chalfen said Tuesday that the investigation is ongoing and no decision has been made about filing criminal charges.
Oresky declined to release the autopsy report, citing the family’s privacy.
Meredith Barber, Leake & Watts spokeswoman, released this statement after being contacted by The Journal News/LoHud.com:
“The report from the New York State Office of Children and Families (OCFS) determined that the actions of Leake & Watts’ staff did not violate the standards of care established by the State of New York. These findings support our internal review which has deemed that appropriate therapeutic practices designed to support the young people in our care were followed on the night of April 18th.
“At this point, the Medical Examiner’s report has not been shared with us. Once we have access to the report, we will be able to comment further on this terrible tragedy and the investigation in general.
“Nothing can reverse this tragedy or bring back Corey to his family or us. We remain focused on healing as a community with a renewed sense of determination to do all that we can in our service to others while we continue to mourn the loss of Corey and remain steadfast in our expression of sympathy for his family and all who cared for him.”
West Nyack pediatric cardiologist Seena Abraham said there are several conditions that could cause what lay people refer to as an enlarged heart.
“The most dreaded is hypertrophic cardiomyopathy,” she said. “That is the leading cause of death in young athletes.”
In people with the condition, the heart muscle becomes abnormally thick, which makes it harder for the heart to pump blood.
Exercise can lead to life-threatening abnormal heart rhythms in people with the disorder, she said.
Often there are no symptoms, experts said.
“You are fine until you are dead,” said Scott Ceresnak, a pediatric cardiologist at the Children’s Hospital at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx.
Other causes of sudden death in a young person include heart abnormalities, a cardiac infection, electrical disorders of the heart or use of drugs like cocaine, he said.
Oresky said he is meeting with the District Attorney’s Office on Thursday to discuss the case. He said he hoped video footage from the facility will shed light on what happened as the family prepares to file a lawsuit against those involved in the death. The family has not been given access to the video.
Last week, a judge issued a temporary restraining order, ordering that the residential treatment center, at least temporarily, preserve video footage surrounding the death.
Pending a hearing Aug. 29, the facility is “hereby restrained from destroying, modifying, altering, and/or changing, any and all video tape recording and audio recording depicting any part of the incident involving the death of Corey Foster on April 18, 2012” at Leake & Watts, the order says.
Regarding any available video footage, Oresky said, “My understanding is it’s not the best angle, but it shows what happened.”
ERIK SHILLING AND SHAWN COHEN
No criminal charges will be filed against staff members who were involved in the death of 16-year-old Corey Foster at a residential treatment center in Yonkers, the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office said Thursday.
Foster died April 18 after being subdued by four staff members at Leake & Watts.
Westchester County District Attorney Janet DiFiore said Thursday afternoon that an investigation that lasted more than three months had not produced enough evidence to prompt criminal charges.
“Witness statements from more than 55 staff members and residents of Leake & Watts were taken and surveillance video from the gym was analyzed and enhanced,” DiFiore said in a statement, adding:
“There was an extensive review of the school, medical records and the autopsy findings conducted by the Westchester County Medical Examiner. In addition, an independent examination of the medical records and autopsy findings was performed by a cardiologist. Based upon the analysis of all the information, we have concluded that no criminal charges are supported by the evidence in this case.”
Jacob Oresky, a lawyer for the Foster family who last week called for homicide charges to be brought in the case, said he was saddened by the DiFiore’s decision.
Oresky also reiterated that the Foster parents will pursue a civil suit for the “wrongful death” of their son, stating Leake & Watts staffers’ “negligence and excessive force caused Corey’s death.”
“Leake & Watts was aware that Corey Foster suffered from a heart ailment,” Oresky continued, “(but the facility nonetheless) allowed four grown men, male staff members, to physically overpower him and restrain him for a period of approximately five minutes. Corey’s heart could not withstand the physical strain of the men upon him, causing him to go into cardiac arrest.”
Oresky called on the residential facility to “learn from their tragic errors and implement changes to their procedures so that future tragedies are avoided.”
Oresky also said that an independent medical examiner determined that Foster died from cardiac arrest after being “deprived of oxygen,” possibly by choking.
The Westchester County Medical Examiner’s Office has said that Foster died of “cardiac arrest during an excited state while being subdued,” though it has also refused to release its autopsy report and referred questions to the District Attorney’s Office.
Leake & Watts welcomed Thursday’s announcement, saying it “is consistent with the findings of the medical examiner and the New York State Office of Children and Family Services,” adding:
“This announcement supports our internal review, which deemed that appropriate therapeutic practices designed to support the young people in our care, were followed on the night of April 18th.”
Meredith Barber, director of institutional advancement, said that “our community continues to mourn Corey’s loss and extend our sympathies to all who knew and cared for him.”
All of the involved staff are back at work, reinstated in late June after the OCFS found no evidence of abuse or neglect, Barber said.
11:09 PM, Sep 11, 2012
Written by Lee Higgins
YONKERS — A police report obtained by The Journal News offers some new details in the case of 16-year-old Corey Foster, who died in April after being restrained at Leake & Watts residential treatment center.
The report identifies three male staffers who restrained Foster as Andrew Duncan, Steve McSween and Joseph Person. It also says police have photographs of a scratch on the left side of Person’s neck, but doesn’t say how he got it.
Last month, the Westchester County District Attorney’s office decided not to file criminal charges in the case. An autopsy by the county medical examiner’s office found the April 18 death was an accident and Foster died of cardiac arrest during an excited state while being subdued.
Lawyer Jacob Oresky, who is preparing to file a wrongful death lawsuit in the case on behalf of Corey’s family, has said a review by an independent medical examiner found Foster had an enlarged heart and marks on his neck consistent with being put in a choke hold or headlock. He also has said the review found Corey died as a result of being deprived of oxygen.
Oresky said Tuesday he plans to sue Leake & Watts and four male staffers in the next month or two. He declined to identify the fourth staffer.
Oresky said Leake & Watts knew Corey had a heart condition.
“When they jumped on him and attacked him, his heart couldn’t take the stress and that’s why he died,” Oresky said.
Oresky said he reviewed surveillance footage of the incident, but it’s of “very poor quality.”
“From what I did see in the video, it kind of looked like Corey was minding his own business playing basketball when the staff members engaged him and attacked him,” Oresky said.
Leake & Watts spokesman Meredith Barber disputes that the facility knew Corey had a heart condition. “Leake & Watts had no prior knowledge of any heart condition that Corey may or may not have had,” she said.
Attorneys for Leake & Watts could not be reached for comment. The three staffers listed in the report also could not be reached.
The report says that about 8:06 p.m. April 18 police responded to a report of a 16-year-old who was unconscious at the Hawthorne Avenue facility. When they arrived, Foster was face up on the gymnasium floor in cardiac arrest. A paramedic and EMT were performing CPR, along with staff nurse Chris Hickey and staff doctor Steven Margolis.
Margolis told investigators Corey had a medical history of asthma, but no “known cardiac problems,” the report says.
The report says the three staffers “had to restrain Foster when he became angry.”
“While being restrained, Foster became unconscious,” it says.
Margolis told investigators he brought a defribillator when called to the gym and described Foster as “pulseless,” it says.
Authorities used the defibrillator and continued CPR while Foster was being taken by ambulance to St. Joseph’s Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead at 9:22 p.m., the report says. Leake & Watts has said that an internal review found appropriate therapeutic practices were followed that night.
Corey’s mother, Sheila Foster, said the Thanksgiving holiday will be difficult without her son. Corey would typically stay up all night and cook with her, she said. “I’m just trying to get by.”