ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — The family of an autistic man who died in a Central Florida group home announced a wrongful death lawsuit on Wednesday.
The family claims that workers at the home improperly restrained their son, Caleb Walker, for nearly 20 minutes, killing him.
The family brought on civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump to fight for their case.
“He should not be dead just because he had autism,” Crump said.
The family hopes the announcement of the lawsuit will bring some attention to the case.
“They were supposed to be keeping him safe,” said Saralyn Walker, Caleb Walker’s mother.
Her 27-year-old son suffered from severe aggressive behavior.
According to the lawsuit, on Nov. 25, 2020, Caleb Walker had an aggressive spell and was restrained by a worker who used a Brief Assisted Required Relaxation (BARR) restraint for about 15 minutes before the employee wandered aimlessly around the small home to get help.
Paramedics arrived to find Caleb Walker lifeless. Group home officials said they did nothing wrong.
“All of the understanding we have and investigation we’ve done is that the staff acted properly,” executive director Craig Cook said.
The Agency for Persons with Disabilities oversees the group home, which is run by Attain, and so far, it hasn’t responded to Channel 9′s questions about oversight, publishing investigations and funding.
The state previously raised questions about another resident being restrained at an Attain facility in Orange County. They started an investigation, but it was dropped five days before Caleb died in his Lake County group home.
The staff at the group home claimed they restrained Arnaldo Rios-Soto because the 31-year-old was running around naked and became aggressive. None of that is seen on these surveillance videos, but he was restrained for more than 15 minutes until deputies arrived.
The state Agency for Persons with Disabilities was concerned about the case and launched an investigation. Attain fought back alleging in a court filing the state failed to properly fund its facilities for the staffing required to care for residents.
Days before Caleb’s death, that investigation was dropped.
Now, Caleb Walker’s family wants justice.
“What we’ve gone through is just a nightmare,” Saralyn Walker said. “I don’t want anyone else to go through this so I want to see changes.”
Investigators said Walker’s cause of death was ruled a homicide but no criminal injustice was found in the case.
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