Attain, Inc. and Oconee Group Home were recently named in a wrongful death lawsuit filed on behalf of Caleb Walker.
A group home in Central Florida was recently hit with a wrongful death lawsuit after 27-year-old Caleb Walker died. The suit was announced by a handful of civil rights lawyers earlier this week, including attorneys Ben Crump, Natalie Jackson, Matthew Dietz, and Aaron Karger. It was filed against Attain, Inc. and Oconee Group Home.
When commenting on the suit, Crump said:
“In November of 2020, Caleb, who was diagnosed as autistic and had behavioral issues, was at Oconee Group Home. where his mother and father sent him to get help…But instead of giving him help at this Oconee group home, they killed Caleb Walker.”
What happened, though? For starters, Walker passed away on November 25, 2020. While investigating the matter, the Lake County Sheriff’s Office learned that Walker “had a history of acting aggressively toward his caregivers.” In fact, Walker woke around 4 a.m. on the day of his death and “began acting aggressively with a staff member.”
To get him under control, two staff members claim “they worked together to restrain Walker by both of his arms on the floor…where they held him for 15 to 20 minutes.” Soon after, Walker became unresponsive and the two workers called 911. Court documents note that, while surveillance video “did not show the full interaction between Walker and the staff… what was visible on camera largely backed the workers’ account of what happened.”
An autopsy report later listed Walker’s cause of death as “excited delirium with restraint during the altercation and his manner of death as homicide.” However, once the state attorney got involved and conducted an investigation, it was determined there was not “sufficient evidence to level criminal charges against the facility or the workers who restrained Walker.”
When commenting on the decision not to file charges, M. Ryan Williams, the assistant state attorney, said:
“This legal conclusion does not mean these men were properly trained or that the facility they worked for did not, in some way, fail Caleb. It just means criminal charges are not appropriate.”
Executive Director of Attain Inc., Dr. Craig Cook, chimed in on the tragic incident and claims his staff followed protocol. He added:
“Based on our investigation we had appropriate staffing, the staff were properly trained, and all indication is that the restraint was implemented the way it was supposed to be.”
However, Crump pushed back and said:
“This was a facility that was specially trained to deal with autism…They were a private institution paid more money by the state and families because they were supposed to be trained to deal with individuals like Caleb Walker, who has autism. It is mind-boggling that they would tell this family — this mother and father — that the untrained personnel that they had working at the group home would kill him by doing some WWE wrestling therapy. Caleb Walker, this young man, died from the same thing that George Floyd died from, positional asphyxiation.”
“This issue with autistic folks in group homes is not a new one for the state of Florida…There have been hundreds of people with autism that get beaten, that get Tased, that are Baker Acted, that do not have appropriate care in group homes.”
Dietz also noted that the group home where Walker was stating was understaffed the day of his death and said:
“For any restraint, there have to be at least two people there…That’s the first issue. The second issue is there should be no pressure placed upon your back or your torso and your head should be turned to the side. So if you have all of those things correct, there should be nothing that happens to them because you’re not putting any pressure on them. But the problem here is they had one person there. They had four (patients) at this group home. They had two staff in place. They had one staff that took him down. So with the one staff they had, there was no way that he could have safely did a restraint at that time. And while that staff was restraining Caleb, the other staff member was in the kitchen having a snack.”
At the moment, the suit is seeking $30,000 in damages.