Posted on Fri, Feb. 17, 2006
Florida Officials Release Video of Boot Camp Beating
By Carol Marbin Miller, Mary Ellen Klas, and Gary Fineout
Knight Ridder Newspapers
PANAMA CITY, Fla. - Five military-style officers hold Martin Lee
Anderson as one of them knees him violently in the back of the legs. The
teen collapses into a heap on the dirt, where a guard twists his wrist
as another grabs at his neck.
Thus it went during some of the last moments of the youth's life:
punched in the arms with fists at least 14 times, kneed or kicked
repeatedly, subjected to painful wrist locks, smashed and squeezed for
at least 90 seconds into a pole, and apparently choked.
A nurse, hands on hips, watches but stays out of the fray for more than
Through it all, the 140-pound boy remains limp. He doesn't appear to
resist. His only movements: his legs writhe while officers spend long
moments on top of him.
Martin's final moments at the Bay Boot Camp, contained on a grainy
30-minute videotape, were played on televisions throughout the nation
Friday after state investigators released the video in settlement of a
public records lawsuit filed by The Miami Herald and CNN.
For more than a month, his mother pleaded with authorities to show her
what happened to her son. But when Gina Jones saw the video for the
first time Friday, she had to turn away.
``I can't even watch the whole tape,'' she said. ``Martin didn't deserve
this right here, at all. ... I knew my baby was in pain and I'm in pain
just looking at the tape.
``Martin didn't even have a chance.''
Said Robert Anderson, the teen's father: "Why did they choke my son,
beat him, kick him, put their knees all in his back? He was trying to do
what they told him to do.''
As they had most of the past month, officials at the Florida Department
of Law Enforcement, which is spearheading a criminal investigation,
declined to discuss the case. ``The state's criminal investigation
remains active,'' Tim Ring, FDLE's regional director in Pensacola, said.
Bay County Sheriff Frank McKeithen, whose office runs the boot camp for
the Department of Juvenile Justice, refused to answer questions about
the tape or a controversial autopsy report released Thursday. He read a
statement saying the autopsy -which says Martin died of ``natural
causes'' - does not ``change the seriousness, complexity or
complications of this unfortunate incident.''
``The viewing of this video will result in many questions, concerns and
accusations,'' he said. ``We, at no time, have indicated that we believe
this incident was handled correctly. As a result of these concerns,
several procedural changes have already occurred.''
McKeithen, criticized by black legislators who say he is showing more
concern for protecting the actions of boot camp officials than for
Anderson's family, refused to answer questions about what changes he has
His office released a memo, dated Jan. 6, ordering boot camp officials
to ``immediately stop the use of'' ammonia capsules - apparently used in
the incident with Martin - ``for any purpose other than emergency
situations, such as attempting to revive a person who has obviously
Camp guards were allowed to use ``chemical agents'' and ``deadly force''
to subdue teens. No more. The sheriff's office also released a memo,
written a week after Martin's death, forbidding the use of ``knee
strikes and hammer strikes,'' referring to the punches to the arm seen
several times on the video, ``unless it is for self-defense.''
On Thursday, Bay County Chief Medical Examiner Charles F. Siebert Jr.
released an autopsy report saying Martin died of ``natural causes'' -
the result of severe internal bleeding and respiratory distress caused
by sickle cell trait, a blood disorder that affects about one in 12
The report has outraged African-American leaders throughout Florida and
the United States who say they suspect Bay County officials of a racist
cover-up and accuse boot camp officers of murder.
In a letter to the U.S. Justice Department's Office of Civil Rights -
which announced Thursday it was commencing an investigation into
Martin's death - the Southern Christian Leadership Conference asked
federal authorities to look into whether any youths were safe at
Florida's military-style youth lockups.
``It is imperative that the federal government assure the citizens of
Florida that our correctional institutions are not places that are
high-risk and life-threatening,'' wrote Sevell C. Brown, the group's
Florida's black state lawmakers sent a letter to Gov. Jeb Bush on Friday
calling for the ARREST OF THE GUARDS, the appointment of a SPECIAL
PROSECUTOR and a NEW CORONER to perform an autopsy.
The letter also questions WHY MARTIN'S BODY WAS ALLOWED TO BE
TRANSFERRED FROM PENSACOLA - where he died in a hospital - BACK TO
PANAMA CITY FOR THE AUTOPSY.
Bush said such calls are premature. ``I don't believe we should shut
down every boot camp because there's this one tragic incident,'' he
A basketball player and one-time honor roll student, Martin was
sentenced to the boot camp after he violated probation on a grand theft
charge. The theft: He went joyriding with relatives in his grandmother's
car during a Sunday church service and wrecked the car.
The video, taken by a camp security camera, opens with Martin pushed up
against a pole or tree trunk, five uniformed drill instructors
surrounding him. One of the officers seems to be pressing much of his
body weight against the motionless youth.
Suddenly, one of the officers thrusts his knee into the back of Martin's
legs, and the teen collapses to the ground. One officer has his arm in a
wristlock; another appears to have his hand around his throat.
At one point, an officer loses his wide-brimmed field hat, and another
carefully replaces it on his head.
The restraint on the ground lasts about 90 seconds. The officers try to
lift Martin off the ground, but he falls to his knees.
Moments later, Martin is placed on the ground, face-down. Three officers
are holding him, while four others watch. An officer punches his arm
with a hammer-type fist.
Four officers then lift his flaccid body off the ground. Once again, he
falls to the dirt. He lies for several seconds motionless on his back.
His legs writhe.
Again, four officers lift him. Again he falls. Again they drag him to
his feet, but his legs wobble. As one officer appears to hold his hands
on Martin's face, another punches the teen nine or 10 times on his
In one of the most violent moments, as the officers hold Martin upright,
one of them appears to knee him in the back. His body jerks upwards, his
head whiplashes and his heels leave the ground.
The officers' ``restraint'' techniques - as officials have called them -
appear to last between 20 and 30 minutes.
Near the end, a white-frocked nurse, Kristin Schmidt, finally leans over
the teen and removes her stethoscope from her neck. She attends to
Martin for several minutes before an ambulance arrives and removes the
youth on a stretcher.
State Rep. Gus Barreiro, a Miami Beach Republican whose first viewing of
the tape last week added fire to the controversy, said upon seeing it
again Friday that the tape still makes him scream at his television
``I keep yelling, `Stop! Don't punch him anymore. He's not moving.'''
Tape Released Showing Teen Beaten at
Video Shows Guards Restraining and Punching Boy
Watch the video, click on the link:
(Then click on link under photo on right)