Boot Camp Deaths
8 Charged In Teen's Boot Camp Death
PENSACOLA, Fla., Nov. 28, 2006
former guards at a juvenile boot camp were charged with aggravated manslaughter
Tuesday in the videotaped pummeling of a 14-year-old boy who later died — a case
that led to the dismantling of Florida's military-style detention system for
Also charged was a nurse who can be seen on the tape watching as guards repeatedly kneed and hit Martin Lee Anderson during a 30-minute scuffle on Jan. 5. Guards said the boy was uncooperative and had refused to participate in exercises.
The teen collapsed in the exercise yard at the camp in Panama City and died at a hospital the next day.
The death sparked protests at the state Capitol and led to a shake-up in Florida's criminal justice system and the resignation of Florida's top law enforcement officer.
If convicted, the former guards and the nurse could get up to 30 years in prison. Bail was set at $25,000 each.
Nurse Kristin Anne Schmidt did not show up for an initial appearance Tuesday, and her attorney did not return a phone call from The Associated Press.
Bob Pell, an attorney for former guard Joseph Walsh II, said: "I was hoping cooler heads would prevail, but we will deal with this as it comes down. We understood the political pressure that was brought to bear."
Waylon Graham, attorney for Lt. Charles Helms, the highest-ranking officer charged, said that he had long anticipated charges and that Helms' family has saved money for bail.
Anderson had been sent to the boot camp for violating probation in a theft case. Boot camps often use grueling exercise to instill discipline in juvenile delinquents.
An initial autopsy found Anderson died of complications of sickle cell trait, a usually benign blood disorder. But after an uproar and cries of a cover-up, a second autopsy was conducted by another medical examiner, and it concluded Anderson suffocated because of the actions of guards.
Dr. Vernard Adams, who performed the second autopsy, said the suffocation was caused by hands blocking the boy's mouth, as well as the "forced inhalation of ammonia fumes" that caused his vocal cords to spasm, blocking his airway.
The guards said in an incident report that they used ammonia capsules five times on Anderson to gain his cooperation.
"Today is a good day for me," said Gina Jones, Anderson's mother. "I'm finally getting justice for my baby."
Benjamin Crump, the lawyer for the boy's parents, who have been demanding for months that the guards be charged with murder, said the videotape leaves no doubt the guards are guilty.
"You wouldn't do this to your dog," Crump said. "Stuffing ammonia tablets up his nose, pulling his neck back, covering his mouth."
In April, college students staged a two-day protest in Gov. Jeb Bush's office. The Revs. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton joined the students and Anderson's parents for a march on the Capitol.
Florida Department of Law Enforcement chief Guy Tunnell, who started Bay County's boot camp when he was sheriff there, resigned under criticism after he compared Jackson to Jesse James and Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., to Osama bin Laden in an agency meeting.
Bush signed a bill in May to replace Florida's boot camps with programs that offer job training and counseling and prohibit physical discipline.
Anderson's family has sued the state Department of Juvenile Justice, which oversaw the boot camp system, and the Bay County Sheriff's Office, which ran the camp. The family is seeking more than $40 million.
"We also hope that once the process is completed that Martin Lee Anderson's family will have the answers to the questions that they legitimately have," the governor said.
13-Year-Old Cadet Dies At Boot Camp
MIAMI, Aug. 13, 2006
13-year-old cadet at a private military academy who died while camping at a
state park refused food throughout the excursion, the father of two fellow
cadets said Sunday.
Victor Jusino of Sunrise said his sons, ages 9 and 10, told him the boy continuously threw away food after the 33 cadets arrived early Wednesday at the Back to Basics Christian Military Academy's Training and Leadership Corps campout.
"They described to me that he wasn't eating. He wasn't feeling well. His stomach was hurting him and the heat was getting to him," Jusino said.
Other cadets gave similar accounts to WFOR-TV in Miami.
"He wasn't eating any food," 12-year-old Joanna Miller said. "He would ask people if they want his food or he would just throw it on the ground. When he was supposed to drink water, he didn't want to."
The academy's principal, Lynda Browne, did not return messages left at the school Sunday. North Miami police have released few details about their investigation into the death early Saturday at Oleta River State Park. An autopsy is pending.
Jusino said his sons told him they were given three meals a day after starting each morning with a long hike. But the boys were dehydrated, sunburned and had insect bites when he picked them up Saturday morning, he said.
"They were very dirty, their clothing was wet. They had been sleeping in wet clothes, and their hair had been cut," Jusino said.
The cadet, whose name has not been released, got out of bed in the middle of the night to tell a drill sergeant he didn't feel well, and collapsed on the way to the bathroom, Browne told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. She said the boy's mother told her that her son "wasn't the most physical, strong or athletic child," the paper reported.
The Lauderhill academy subcontracts with Fort Lauderdale-based Juvenile Military Training and Leadership Corp. The camp is run by certified National Guard drill sergeants, Browne told the paper.
In January, a 14-year-old boy died after a confrontation with guards at a Panama City boot camp for juvenile offenders operated by the Bay County Sheriff's Office. Martin Lee Anderson died one day after being roughed up by guards.
His death remains under investigation. The state's government-operated military-style boot camp system was shutdown in May.
Gov. Bush: Fire Ex-Head Of Boot Camp
TALLAHASSEE, Fla., May 10, 2006
Jeb Bush has written Bay County's sheriff urging him to fire the former
supervisor of a juvenile boot camp where guards roughed up a 14-year-old boy who
Bush's letter to Sheriff Frank McKeithen was released by the governor's office Wednesday. It was written Friday, when a medical examiner said a second autopsy on Martin Lee Anderson found that he had been suffocated.
Dr. Vernard Adams said the boy couldn't breathe because hands were over his mouth as guards forced him to inhale ammonia fumes. The guards said in a report that they were using ammonia to revive Anderson. The first autopsy found that he died of complications of sickle cell trait, a usually benign blood disorder.
The Jan. 5 struggle was captured on videotape and generated protests in the state Capitol. The handling of the investigation prompted protests and the resignation of the state's top law enforcement official.
The military-style camp was closed and the guards involved in the altercation laid off, but the supervisor, Capt. Mike Thompson, was transferred to another position.
"When we got this additional information I thought it was appropriate to request that he be removed," Bush told reporters Wednesday. "I think there's enough information about how this boot camp operated that suggests there ought to be a clean slate."
McKeithen told The News Herald of Panama City on Tuesday that he had no plans to fire Thompson. McKeithen and Thompson declined to comment Wednesday, a spokeswoman said.
The Florida Legislature responded to the death by closing the four remaining boot camps and replacing them with a less militaristic program that would include additional support services and aftercare.
Teen's New Autopsy Shows He Suffocated
May 6, 2006
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — The 14-year-old boy who died a day after a struggle at a Panama City boot camp suffocated after guards forced him to inhale ammonia, according to new autopsy results released Friday.
The findings contradict an initial autopsy by the Bay County medical examiner, Dr. Charles F. Siebert Jr., who ruled that Martin Lee Anderson died of complications from sickle cell trait, a typically benign blood disorder common to blacks. (Anderson was African American.)
"Martin Anderson's death was caused by suffocation due to actions of the guards at the boot camp," Dr. Vernard Adams said in a prepared statement. Adams, the Hillsborough County medical examiner, was asked to perform a second autopsy by the special prosecutor investigating the youth's death.
It was a bittersweet moment for the boy's parents, Gina Jones and Robert Anderson, who have been trying for four months to prove that their son did not die of natural causes, as the initial autopsy concluded.
"The truth is out. We all knew how Martin passed away," Jones said. "It's a beginning."
Martin Anderson died Jan. 6, a day after guards were videotaped kicking, kneeing and dragging him.
Adams said Anderson's suffocation was caused by hands blocking his mouth coupled with "forced inhalation of ammonia fumes" that made his vocal chords spasm, blocking his upper airway. The guards used ammonia capsules to keep Anderson conscious, according to an incident report.
The boot camp for young offenders, run by the Bay County Sheriff's Office under a state contract, has since been closed. But no one has been charged with a crime.
Jones said Gov. Jeb Bush — who, along with other state officials, had been criticized for not investigating Anderson's death sooner — called Friday to apologize.
"He told me how sorry he was what happened to my baby," Jones said.
In a statement, Bush said that he was disturbed by the results of the second autopsy, and that the actions of the guards were "deplorable."
Bush later told reporters he was not surprised by the new findings.
"Clearly, asphyxiation is a more logical conclusion," he said, adding that he told Anderson's parents "that this is the first step in making sure that justice is served."
Siebert told the Associated Press on Friday that he stood by his findings. If Anderson had suffocated, there would have been higher levels of carbon dioxide in the boy's body than were found in the autopsy, he said.
"I came to my conclusion by valid means," Siebert said. "I've seen no explanation as to how he came to his conclusion."
The youth had been sent to the boot camp for violating probation by trespassing at a school after he and his cousins were charged with stealing their grandmother's car from a church parking lot.
The boy's death has sparked outrage across the country, particularly among black people, amid accusations that those involved have tried to cover up a crime.
Two weeks ago, more than 2,000 protesters led by the Revs. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton descended on the Capitol in Tallahassee. The rally followed an overnight sit-in by about 30 college students in Bush's office.
That sit-in came the same day Bush accepted the resignation of Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Guy Tunnell, who stepped down after he referred to Jackson as the outlaw Jesse James and U.S. Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) as Osama bin Laden, during a top-level meeting.
Tunnell was already under intense criticism for sending friendly e-mails to the Bay County sheriff even as his agency was helping investigate the youth's death.