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Family of autistic man file wrongful death lawsuit against group home operator

Attorney Ben Crump (Front-R), mother Sara Walker (Front-C), and Thomas Walker (Front-R) annouce a lawsuit alleging the wrongful death of Caleb Walker. Photo: Nicole Darden-Creston, WMFE
Attorney Ben Crump (Front-R), mother Sara Walker (Front-C), and Thomas Walker (Front-R) annouce a lawsuit alleging the wrongful death of Caleb Walker. Photo: Nicole Darden-Creston, WMFE

The family of a 27-year-old autistic man who died at a Central Florida group home is suing the facility for wrongful death and negligence.

Caleb Walker’s family placed their autistic son in a group home in 2018. But in November 2020, after an aggressive incident, he was restrained for nearly 20 minutes. Walkers family claims this restraint led to his death and filed a wrongful death and negligence civil lawsuit.

Caleb Walker's mother Sara says she trusted the staff at Attain, Inc., the company which ran her son's group home, to care for Caleb. She hopes this lawsuit will prevent this tragic death from happening to others.

“This is the hardest thing to go through," she told reporters outside the Orange County courthouse. "It’s a nightmare for any parent, especially one with a disability. We prayed that others would watch out for our child. We trusted other people. And they let us down.”

The lawsuit alleges a single staff member administered the restraint, which was "improper and dangerous."

The family hired civil rights attorney Ben Crump, whose law firm represented the families of Trayvon Martin, George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbrey. He hopes the lawsuit will shine a spotlight on the incident and prevent similar events from happening to disabled people in group homes

“Often times, they are just invisible," said Crump. "Well, Caleb Walker is not invisible. He is real. ANd his life matters. Autistic people’s lives matter.”

Crump noted that Walker died from the same thing George Floyd died of: positional asphyxiation.

Attain, Inc. could not be reached for comment.
WMFE's Nicole Darden-Creston contributed to this report. 

Brendan Byrne is Central Florida Public Media's Assistant News Director, managing the day-to-day operations of the newsroom, editing daily news stories, and managing the organization's internship program.

Byrne also hosts Central Florida Public Media's weekly radio show and podcast "Are We There Yet?" which explores human space exploration.