Five city and state officials were charged Wednesday with involuntary manslaughter over the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, the Detroit Free Press reports. They are Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Director Nick Lyon—the highest-ranking official to be charged in the water crisis so far, per the Detroit News—former Flint Emergency Manager Darnell Earley, former City of Flint Water Department Manager Howard Croft, plus Michigan Department of Environmental Quality’s Drinking Water Chief Liane Shekter-Smith and Water Supervisor Stephen Busch. Twelve people died after the city's water supply was changed to the Flint River in April 2014 and there was an outbreak of Legionnaires' disease. Prosecutors allege that Lyon knew about the outbreak by at least Jan. 28, 2015, yet did not make the news public until a year later; he is charged with causing the Dec. 13, 2015, death of Robert Skidmore.
All of the involuntary manslaughter charges are linked to Skidmore's death; the 85-year-old died after many cases of Legionnaires' disease had been diagnosed, but the public still had not been notified of the outbreak. Lyon is also charged with misconduct in office for allegedly telling an official to halt an analysis that would have helped figure out what caused the outbreak, the Detroit Free Press reports. Also Wednesday, Chief Medical Executive Dr. Eden Wells was charged with obstruction of justice and lying to a police officer; she is accused of giving false testimony to a special agent, lying to a peace officer about when she knew of the outbreak, and threatening to withhold funding for the Flint Area Community Health and Environment Partnership if it did not stop investigating the outbreak. Flint residents are still advised to use a filter if they plan to drink the city's tap water, and many use bottled water instead, which is distributed for free in the city. (Read more Flint water crisis stories.)