Sheriff: Boot Camp Video Will Raise Concerns

By: Miami Herald
By: Miami Herald

The Sheriff of Bay County, who runs a boot camp for delinquent children where a 14-year-old boy died earlier this month, released a statement late Tuesday that suggests a videotaped recording of the incident is likely to draw harsh criticism of his program.

''When [the tape] is released and made public, there will be many questions, concerns and accusations,'' Sheriff Frank McKeithen wrote in a three-paragraph statement. “I hope to be able to address any and all concerns at that time.''

Martin Lee Anderson of Panama City died in the early morning of Jan. 6 at a Pensacola hospital.

He had stopped breathing a few hours after he was admitted to the Bay County Sheriff's Boot Camp, a military-style youth corrections program under contract with the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice. He had been committed to DJJ for violating probation on a grand theft charge.

Martin's death is under investigation by the sheriff's office as well as DJJ and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which has custody of a video recording of Martin's time at the boot camp's admitting section. There, officials say Martin was restrained twice after he had become “belligerent.”

None of the three agencies have discussed the case, citing the ongoing investigation.

Ruth Sasser, McKeithen's spokeswoman, declined to discuss the investigation Tuesday and would not say what prompted her boss to release the statement, which hinted that the case may cause additional controversy.

''As I find myself essentially handcuffed from releasing information concerning the unfortunate death of 14-year-old Martin Anderson, I also find myself obligated to the citizens of Bay County, the family of Martin Anderson and the media to in no way mislead them about the seriousness, the complexity and the perception of this incident,'' McKeithen wrote.

“While the [FDLE] as well as the Medical Examiner's Office, the [DJJ and Sheriff's Office] continues their investigation, we must not leave you with the impression that this is going to have a happy ending. There is nothing good about the death of a 14-year-old young man.''


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