November 29, 2006

14 Year Old Dies At Bootcamp

Snapshots In My Time...
Of My Time.....Hauntings.

Eight former employees of the Bay County Sheriff's Office were charged Tuesday with aggravated manslaughter in the death of a 14-year-old at a Florida boot camp for juvenile offenders.

State Attorney Mark Ober of Hillsborough County said seven former guards and a nurse are accused of causing the death of Martin Lee Anderson by "culpable negligence."

If convicted, each could face up to 30 years in prison.

"This feels like a brick lifted off my shoulders," the teenager's father, Robert Lee Anderson, said at a Panama City press conference Tuesday afternoon. "Tonight I might get me some rest."

Tears welling in her eyes, Anderson's mother, Gina Jones, told reporters Thanksgiving had been especially difficult without her son.

Asked how she would feel on Christmas, Jones said, "just like I felt Thanksgiving. No Martin, no Christmas. My daughter and I went out and dressed up his grave for Christmas. That's Christmas for Martin."

"Today is a good day for me. I'm finally getting justice for my baby," Jones said.

The teen collapsed January 5 at the sheriff's office boot camp in Panama City, which was operated under a contract with the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice.

Anderson was arrested in June 2005 for stealing his grandmother's Jeep Cherokee in Panama City. He was ordered to the boot camp for violating his probation after he trespassed at a school, according to the Miami Herald.

As part of the entry process on his first day at the facility, Anderson complained of breathing difficulties while running around a track. He was taken to a hospital and died early the next day.

Video: Teen forced to the ground

Videotape of the incident showed Anderson being forced to the ground by various methods, including knees to the thigh, pressure points to his ear and punches to his arms.

Later, another camp staff member hit him from behind, causing his body to lurch forward. A nurse stood by and on at least one occasion determined his vital signs were normal.

An initial autopsy, conducted by Dr. Charles Siebert in nearby Panama City, showed Anderson died a natural death caused by complications of sickle cell trait.

A second autopsy, conducted by pathologist Dr. Vernard Adams, showed the teen was suffocated by guards who were restraining him.

To reach his findings, Adams studied the video, including having it enhanced by engineers at NASA. The intake process at the facility is videotaped as a matter of policy.

Afterward, the staff prepared a report detailing the techniques used on Anderson, including ammonia capsules under his nose, knee strikes, a straight arm-bar takedown, bending his wrist and pouring water over his head.

To explain the use of force, one staff member wrote, "I ordered [the] offender to stop resisting and relax his arms. Offender refused to comply with those instructions."

Some experts on juvenile justice called it excessive force. The sheriff's office said Anderson was restrained for being "uncooperative." After the incident, he was taken away on a stretcher and died later that day.

Anderson's family accused the employees of killing the teen and demanded an independent investigation.

Besides Helms and Walsh, the charging document filed by Ober in Bay County Circuit Court identifies those charged as Henry Dickens, Charles Enfinger, Patrick Garrett, Raymond Hauck, Henry McFadden Jr. and Kristin Smith.

They are described as "being caregivers of Martin Lee Anderson" who caused his death.

Anderson's family had accused county and state officials of attempting to cover up what happened.

Ober said "there is no evidence by any public official or agency to undermine or improperly influence this investigation."


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