Tape Released Showing Teen Beaten At Boot Camp; Video Shows Guards Restraining, Punching Boy
WPBFNews.com, February 17, 2006

PANAMA CITY, Fla. -- Guards at a juvenile detention boot camp kneed and struck a boy who appeared to have gone limp while others restrained him on the day before he died, a videotape released Friday showed, sparking outrage from his parents.

The boy, 14-year-old Martin Lee Anderson, died the next day. A medical examiner has said he died from internal bleeding unrelated to the confrontation.

The boy's mother, Gina Jones, said the tape proves her contention that the guards killed her son.

"Martin didn't deserve this right here. At all," she said. "I couldn't even watch the whole tape. Me as a mom, I knew my baby was in pain and I am in pain just watching his pain."

She said she walked out of her lawyer's office when the tape showed guards shoving her son up against a pole. The family viewed the tape at their lawyer's office in Tallahassee as the Florida Department of Law Enforcement made it public.

On the tape, as many as nine guards can be seen restraining Anderson. Guards are seen to knee Anderson and wrestle him to the ground. On the ground, he was struck several times by one of the guards, either on his arm or the side of his torso, while he lay motionless.

Anderson was limp throughout most of the ordeal and never appeared to offer significant resistance.

A woman in a white coat with a stethoscope was present while the guards restrained the boy and at one point used it to check on him. Near the end of the confrontation guards appear to become more concerned and several began running in and out of the scene. A few minutes later, emergency medical personnel arrive and put the boy on a gurney and take him away.

In all, the guards appeared to strike him several times, but it's not clear from the tape how hard the blows were or where they landed. FDLE has also acknowledged the tape was edited to conceal other youths' identities, so it is unclear how long the ordeal lasted.

At one point, a guard struck him from behind, lifting his feet off the ground. At the beginning, as the guards are pinning him against a pole, they struck him three times with their knees.

"The viewing of this will result in many questions, concerns and accusations," said Bay County Sheriff Frank McKeithen.

Bay County Medical Examiner Dr. Charles Siebert said Thursday that Anderson suffered internal bleeding because he had the sickle cell trait, a disorder that Siebert said produced a "cascade of events" that led to his death Jan. 6, the day after he arrived at the camp. Siebert said one in eight African Americans has the disorder, but it would not show up in routine blood work.

Two Florida legislators who viewed the tape last week, Rep. Gus Barreiro, R-Miami Beach and Rep. Dan Gelber, D-Miami Beach, portrayed the scene as out-of-control, with guards punching and choking Anderson even as he went limp. Bay County sheriff's officials said guards restrained Anderson after he became uncooperative while doing push-ups, sit-ups and other exercises as part of his physical evaluation hours after being admitted to the camp.

"When people see the tape and you say he just died of natural causes, it doesn't add up," Barreiro said Friday. "It doesn't make sense and goes against all the logic of watching what happened to this young man."

Siebert said there were some bruises and abrasions on the body, but he attributed them to attempts to resuscitate the youth.

The Florida Southern Christian Leadership Conference called on the Sickle Cell Disease Association of America to review the autopsy findings to determine if they are correct.

"It is our position that Dr. Siebert's findings have implications beyond the local level. This could have far reaching ramifications of an adverse nature upon those with the sickle cell trait if the coroner's findings are incorrect," said Florida SCLC President Sevell C. Brown III.

The boot camp concept for juveniles began in Florida with nine facilities in 1993, but will soon be whittled to four if the Martin County camp closes as scheduled later this year. About 600 boys between ages 14 and 18 remain in the existing camps.

The boot camp where Anderson was sent is run by the Bay County Sheriff's Office for the state. Anderson was arrested in June for stealing his grandmother's Jeep Cherokee and sent to the boot camp for violating his probation by trespassing at a school.

Anderson was the third young black male to die in state custody in the past three years.

Willie Lawrence Durden III of Jacksonville was found unconscious in his cell at the Cypress Creek Juvenile Offender Corrections Center in Citrus County last October and Omar Paisley, also 17, died from a burst appendix that went untreated in June 2003 at a juvenile detention facility in Miami.

The U.S. Justice Department announced Thursday that it is also investigating possible civil rights violations in the Anderson case.

News organizations had sued for the tape to be made public. The FDLE said it would be released when its investigation was complete.

The department said Friday that while the investigation is not finished, it released the tape "due to compelling public interest and speculation as to its contents."

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Return to:
Boot camp for kids: Torturing teens for fun and profit
Martin Lee Anderson: A life cut short
Front Page