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Second autopsy performed in boot camp death

The body of a boy who died after a beating by guards at a juvenile boot camp was exhumed Friday for a second autopsy.
Florida Department of Law Enforcement agents Friday seal the coffin of Martin Lee Anderson, 14, who died after a videotaped beating by guards at a juvenile boot camp.Mari Darr~welch / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

The body of a boy who died after a videotaped beating by guards at a juvenile boot camp was exhumed Friday for a second autopsy, his mother weeping as his coffin was raised.

The body of Martin Lee Anderson was to be taken to Tampa; Hillsborough County’s medical examiner was scheduled to conduct the autopsy Monday.

Surveillance video from the Florida Panhandle camp shows guards punching and kicking the 14-year-old on Jan. 5. He died the next day.

Bay County’s medical examiner concluded that he died of complications of sickle cell trait, but several experts in the usually benign blood disorder have questioned that finding.

Officials for the Bay County Sheriff’s Office, which ran the camp, said guards restrained Anderson after he became uncooperative during exercises. Some state legislators have called for the arrests of guards involved in the beating of the black teenager.

“I want somebody arrested before next week’s end. We need answers and we need arrests, preferably by the end of today,” said state Sen. Frederica Wilson, D-Miami, who sat with Anderson’s family during the exhumation.

'Fighting for justice'
“In 2006 we are still fighting for justice and we have to desecrate the grave of a young boy to accomplish this,” Wilson said.

Anderson’s parents, who have been outspoken about the case, did not make public comments at the cemetery Friday.

The exhumation was ordered by Hillsborough County State Attorney Mark A. Ober, whom Gov. Jeb Bush appointed to investigate the death. Speaking to reporters Friday in Orlando, Bush said investigators need time to do their job.

“If there is any action that will be taken, it will be based on (the state attorney’s) investigation and if I need to take action based on that I will,” Bush said.

No guards have been arrested or fired, but the camp has been closed.

Also Friday, The Miami Herald reported that documents kept by the boot camp show Anderson complained for 40 minutes Jan. 5 that he couldn’t breathe before an ambulance took him to a hospital.

The teen dropped to his knees during a physical fitness test complaining he “was tired and couldn’t breathe good enough to run any more,” the report said. Boot camp officials said guards then hit him in the legs and arms and applied “pressure points” to his head — the latter a technique banned by the state Department of Juvenile Justice in 2004.

Ruth Sasser, a spokeswoman for Bay County Sheriff Frank McKeithen, who ran the camp under contract with the state Department of Juvenile Justice, declined to comment on the report.