Boot Camp Tape Released

By: Mike Vasilinda and Victoria Langley
By: Mike Vasilinda and Victoria Langley

The surveillance videotape of the Panama City boot camp shows officers striking a 14-year-old who later died.

The tape and the medical examiner’s conclusion that Martin Lee Anderson died of internal bleeding unrelated to the beating raises more questions than answers. The family continues to believe their son was murdered by deputies.

On Thursday, the local medical examiner found that 14-year-old Martin Lee Anderson died from internal bleeding as a result of the blood disorder sickle cell trait. Dr. Charles Siebert conducted the autopsy.

“I think he probably wasn’t even aware he had it.”

Police released a video of the incident Friday, first to the family then the media. The poor quality tape shows officers kneeing the boy, then restraining him while he was on the ground. The boy’s parents were visibly shaken.

“Why did they choke my son? Beat him? Kick him? Put their knees all in his back? “I can’t watch the whole tape. Me, as a mom, I know my baby was in pain, and I’m in pain just looking at the tape.”

The tape appears to show the boy being hit while being restrained on the ground and offering little or no resistance. The family and supporters don’t buy the medical examiner’s conclusion that the trauma did not cause the internal bleeding

Their lawyer, Benjamin Crump, is even more blunt.

“It’s becoming increasingly clear that this is a cover-up in the first degree.”

The family and several black legislators are calling for a special prosecutor in the case and for the body to be exhumed and reexamined.

State and federal criminal and civil investigations are continuing. The guards involved are still working but are not being allowed contact with kids at the boot camp.

But there are more questions than answers following the release of the videotape. Authorities fought to keep the tape secret, but they released the tape after a public outcry and demands from the boy’s family, lawmakers and the media.

About seven minutes of the poor-quality video show Bay County sheriff’s deputies dragging Martin Lee Anderson around and kicking and punching the boy.

At the news conference where investigators released the tape, Bay County Sheriff Frank McKeithen acknowledged it’s a difficult tape to watch.

“The viewing of this video will result in many questions, concerns and accusations. We at no time have indicated that we believe this incident was handled correctly. It is very obvious to us that there are valid concerns raised in some of the procedures that are being used in this particular incident.”

The Bay County medical examiner has ruled Martin Lee Anderson died from a complication of sickle cell trait, an inherited blood disorder, but independent medical experts say Martin only had the gene that carries the disease, not the disease itself.

Two separate doctors told the Miami Herald the possibility that Anderson died from sickle cell complications is highly unlikely.


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