A second autopsy shows that a 14-year-old boy who was punched and kicked by guards at a juvenile boot camp did not die of natural causes as a medical examiner initially ruled, prosecutors confirmed Tuesday.
Martin Lee Anderson was sent to the Bay County Sheriff’s Office boot camp on Jan. 5 for a probation violation. A surveillance video showed guards kicking and punching him after he collapsed while exercising on his first day at the camp, and he died at a hospital early the next day.
A noted pathologist who observed Monday’s 12-hour autopsy on behalf of Anderson’s family said it was clear the teen did not die from sickle cell trait, as the medical examiner for Bay County had determined, or from any other natural causes.
Pam Bondi, a spokeswoman for Hillsborough County State Attorney Mark Ober, confirmed that assertion by Dr. Michael Baden but would not elaborate, saying it will be months before the investigation is complete.
Ober said he will not discuss the autopsy until the investigation is complete.
“My opinion is that he died because of what you see in the videotape,” said Baden, referring to the surveillance video.
After seeing the videotape, the boy’s parents agreed to have his body exhumed and asked Baden to observe a second autopsy.
“I’m just glad the truth is out,” Anderson’s mother, Gina Jones, said Tuesday. “But I already knew what the truth was. Now that the truth is out, and I want justice. I want the guards and the nurse to be arrested.”
Several weeks for analysis
Baden, who was hired by the boy’s family, said it would be several weeks before the medical examiner in charge of the second autopsy, Hillsborough County Medical Examiner Dr. Vernard Adams, determines the exact cause of death because tissue samples must be analyzed and other evidence considered.
But Baden said it was clear that Anderson did not die from sickle cell trait.
Dr. Charles Siebert, who made that initial ruling after Anderson’s death Jan. 6, was present at the second autopsy and may end up changing his ruling, said Baden, who reviewed medical evidence in the 1965 slaying of civil rights leaders Medgar Evers and the 1968 assassination of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
“I think he made a mistake,” Baden said.
Siebert did not immediately return a call seeking comment Tuesday.
The U.S. Attorney’s office in Tallahassee and the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division also have opened an investigation into Anderson’s death. No guards have been arrested or fired, but the camp, operated by the Bay County Sheriff’s Office, has been closed.
Civil rights leaders who rallied to support Anderson’s parents said they hoped the case would lead to reforms.
“He was a microcosm of many young Andersons sitting in boot camps and detention centers across the state of Florida,” said Sevell C. Brown, state president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
Anderson entered the camp for a probation violation for trespassing at a school after he and his cousins were charged with stealing their grandmother’s car from a church parking lot. He was in his first day at the boot camp when he collapsed during exercises and then was seen on the tape being struck and kicked by several guards.