PANAMA CITY, Fla. – Authorities released a videotape Friday showing guards restraining a boy at a juvenile detention boot camp just hours before he died.
The parents of 14-year-old Martin Lee Anderson believe the tape will show guards beat their son to death. They were viewing the 1 hour 20 minute tape at their lawyer's office in Tallahassee as the Florida Department of Law Enforcement made it public.
"The viewing of this will result in many questions, concerns and accusations," said Bay County Sheriff Frank McKeithen.
The Associated Press was reviewing the tape, which was recorded on a boot camp security camera. The beginning of the tape shows youths doing push-ups and sit-ups and running under the watch of uniformed guards. Occasionally, guards are seen pulling individual youths out of the exercise routine and appearing to restrain them briefly before letting them return to their exercises. The video has no sound.
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."