About 700 protesters marched to the federal courthouse Tuesday to voice their outrage at the handling of a black teenager’s death at a boot camp.
Shouting “we shall overcome” and “no justice, no peace,” the marchers made their way past the Capitol to the courthouse, where several NAACP officials met with U.S. Attorney Gregory R. Miller and Justice Department officials.
“They pretty much assured us that they have taken these types of cases seriously in the past and they are definitely taking this case seriously,” NAACP attorney Chuck Hobbs said of the meeting. “They are going to make sure no stones are left unturned in the determination of the facts.”
The NAACP-sponsored protest comes less than two weeks after an all-white jury acquitted seven camp guards and a nurse of manslaughter charges in the death of Martin Lee Anderson, a 14-year-old black inmate.
Anderson died Jan. 6, 2006, a day after being hit and kicked by the guards as the nurse watched after he collapsed while running laps. The 30-minute confrontation was videotaped.
Demonstrators seek probes
Protesters said they want federal authorities to investigate what they allege are civil rights violations by former boot camp staffers and others, including Florida’s former top law enforcement official.
After meeting with the NAACP, Miller and the representatives from the civil rights division and FBI met with Martin Lee Anderson’s parents and their counsel.
Miller’s office said “if there is sufficient evidence to establish a prosecutable violation of any federal criminal civil rights statutes, appropriate action will be taken.” It declined further comment on an open investigation.
Defense attorneys argued that the camp workers were using accepted tactics and that the boy died because of a pre-existing medical condition.
The U.S. Justice Department announced within hours of the Oct. 12 verdicts that it was reviewing the state’s prosecution.
The protest also targeted former Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Guy Tunnell. He was Bay County’s sheriff when his office founded the camp and now works as an investigator for the state attorney’s office in the area.
The civil rights organization wants Tunnell investigated for allegedly trying to prevent the videotape from being made public, making racist remarks related to the case and inappropriately communicating with current Bay County Sheriff Frank McKeithen about the death. The sheriff’s office ran the now-defunct boot camp under state supervision.
Joe Grammer, spokesman for State Attorney Steve Meadows, said Tunnell would not discuss the boot camp case. Tunnell is not authorized to speak to the media, Grammer said.