Friday marks a sad and controversial anniversary in our community. It was one year ago Friday, 14-year-old Martin Lee Anderson was admitted to the Bay County Juvenile Boot Camp.
The teenager died the next day, but the reasons for his death have been at the center of one of the most divisive debates in Bay County’s history.
There are two new developments on the eve of the anniversary.
We've all seen the video tape of drill instructors physically handling Martin Lee Anderson one year ago.
The tape will be the central piece of evidence in the trial of the seven drill instructors and the camp nurse, when they eventually go on trial for aggravated manslaughter.
Many people believe the tape proves the guards are guilty of criminal activity, including many members of Florida’s NAACP.
They are preparing for a large memorial ceremony to mark the anniversary of the Anderson incident.
First VP of the Bay County NAACP Rufus Wood said Thursday, "Anniversaries can be very traumatic for families and we know this is a very difficult time for them, so we want to be there to support them."
The ceremony will include a wreath laying at Anderson’s grave at Redwood Cemetery.
It will be followed by a town hall meeting 6:30 Friday night at Glenwood Community Center.
The keynote speaker will be the Florida NAACP President Adora Obi Nwese.
Carolyn Mosley with Bay County's NAACP said, "We're here to put our heads together, put our expertise together and come up with a solution to be proactive in our community, to make sure that justice is served and also to bring about healing and reconciliation in our community."
Meanwhile, the drill instructors and the boot camp nurse are receiving some help with their defense.
A non-profit organization has started the Boot Camp Defense Fund to help the eight defendants pay for their legal expenses.
Mark Boersma with the Boot Camp Defense Fund said Thursday, "My heart just went out to them. I know that this was a difficult time in their lives and that they were gonna’ have a hard time paying for this. No matter where you stand on the issue, they need a defense and I know it would be tough for them to afford it."
Boersma say the guards and the nurse have lost their jobs and are facing attorneys' fees in-excess of $50,000 dollars each.
He says all contributions will go directly to their attorneys’, not them.
You can mail contributions to the Boot Camp Defense Fund, 390 South Tyndall Parkway, Box 286, Panama City, Florida 32404.