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Another boy age 14 has died in a prorgam

Teen dies 3 hours after being admitted to military-style lockup. Lawmaker demands shutdown.
By Carol Marbin Miller and Mary Ellen Klas, Miami Herald, January 11, 2006

PANAMA CITY - The sudden death of an apparently healthy Panama City teen at a military-style youth lockup prompted a prominent South Florida lawmaker to demand Tuesday that the controversial programs be shut down, while state officials say they will reexamine the policies that allow the use of physical force against children in state care.
Martin Lee Anderson, 14, who stopped breathing less than three hours after being admitted to the Bay County Sheriff's boot camp last week, is the most recent Florida child to die in the custody of state youth corrections officials under questionable circumstances.

''These places are terrible, they have been shown to be unsuccessful, and they should be shut down,'' said state Rep. Gustavo ''Gus'' Barreiro, a Miami Beach Republican who chairs the House Criminal Justice Appropriations Committee, and heads a separate committee that is investigating the treatment of youth in state care. ``I think they should be eliminated.''

The Department of Juvenile Justice, which contracts with counties to operate the boot camps, will review all the sheriff's offices' policies, said Cynthia Lorenzo, a DJJ spokeswoman in Tallahassee. Lorenzo declined to discuss the case.

Said Rep. Dan Gelber, a Miami Beach Democrat also on the oversight committee: ``How is it that we are incapable of simply preserving the lives we are entrusted with?''

The initial report of the Bay County Medical Examiner suggests Martin did not die from injury or physical trauma. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement confirmed Tuesday that it is investigating the incident, which was captured on the camp's security cameras.

Martin's parents, Robert Anderson and Gina Jones, dispute the medical examiner's findings. They believe their son was restrained, pushed up against a wall and beaten by drill instructors until he stopped breathing. On Tuesday, they filed documents indicating they intend to sue the state and Bay County officials for negligence.

''They shouldn't get away with this,'' Jones said. ``They threw him around like a little rag doll.''

Martin, six-foot-one and 140 pounds, was a healthy, rangy teen who played basketball for his middle school team, Jones said.

She and Anderson traveled from Panama City to Pensacola to be with their son Thursday as he was being transported to the trauma ward at Sacred Heart Hospital.

As they stood Friday morning over the limp body of their son, linked to life by the artificial breath of a respirator, they decided to let him go.

''The nurse said his kidneys and liver were gone,'' recalled Anderson, Martin's father. ``I didn't want to do it but, just looking at him, lying on that bed, he was doing nothing but suffering.''


Anderson remembers the time: 1:42 a.m. Jones remembers her last look at her son: His nose was swollen, his lip cut, his cheek scraped. Blood had dripped from his nose to his ears and dried, she said.

Martin had been on a respirator since sometime between 9 and 10 a.m. the day before. He was on life support for 15 hours. He had been at the boot camp less than three, booked for violating his probation during a grand-theft case. ''He didn't even get a chance to eat lunch,'' Jones said.

At the center of the controversy are the state's six juvenile justice boot camps, all run by county sheriff's offices. The closest to South Florida are in Collier and Martin counties. Social scientists say the military camps simply don't work, failing to prevent youth from committing new crimes. Still, critics say state sheriffs have used their political muscle to keep the camps running.

And while DJJ administrators have launched many reforms in recent years to better protect children, the six boot camps were exempted from the reforms under pressure from sheriffs.

Re: Another boy age 14 has died in a prorgam

Authorities have this on video and are refusing to release it to the public
The teen was in the admissions area of the boot camp Jan. 5 when he was ordered by drill instructors, along with several other youths, to perform exercises. While the youths were being initiated into the program, an officer held a video camera and zoomed in to film moments when youths were being restrained, Barreiro said he was told.

As the video begins, several other youths are seen being held up against a wooden fence as drill instructors yell at them. Martin, in what has been described by juvenile justice officials as a ''restraint,'' is first seen being held down on the ground by two officers, with his arms spread out, Barreiro said.

One officer is seen with his knee pushing into his back. Though the tape contains no sound, the officers appear to be yelling at the teen, Barreiro said.

After a minute or two, Martin stands up and attempts to run around the camp's track, Barreiro said. Officers ''rush'' to hold him up against the wooden fence, ''with his arms spread out like a crucifix,'' Barreiro said. Then four guards are seen holding Martin to the ground, with one officer pushing his knee into the youth's back.

As Martin gets up to run again, he is clearly ''stumbling,'' unable to run or walk, Barreiro said.


What happened next, Barreiro said, was so disturbing he asked the FDLE agent showing the tape to rewind several times. On screen, a guard is seen apparently choking Martin by pushing his forearm against his throat, Barreiro and Gelber said.

The youth is once again encouraged to begin running, but again he stumbles and falls down, Barreiro said: ``He is like a rag doll . . . They are holding him up.''

Said Gelber: ``They are moving his body around like a sack of potatoes.''

Then, both lawmakers said, an officer either kicks or knees Martin in the back of his knees so that he falls down. ''When he's on the ground,'' Barreiro said, ``they start punching him in the arms. He's like comatose, and they are punching and punching.''

Moments later, the lawmakers say, officers yank Martin by the head and jerk it back. Once again, Barreiro said, they place Martin in what appears to be a type of choke hold.

''That was pretty violent,'' Gelber said of what he called the ''jolting'' of the teen's head. ``You could see from the very beginning [Martin] had a problem. His legs were rubbery. The kid was fainting and losing consciousness repeatedly.''

At some point, officers appeared to be pushing an object -- the lawmakers said they were told it was ammonia to help Martin regain consciousness -- forcefully into his nose. Juvenile justice officials have previously said Martin bled profusely from some injury to his nose.

Gelber said he was particularly struck by the apparent lack of any urgency or concern on the part of the boot-camp officers -- and a nurse who appeared to stand by doing little -- while Martin was clearly in grave distress for about 20 minutes.

''This was too long a period of time to not have sought medical attention,'' Gelber said. ``Giving the officers the benefit of all doubt, it's hard to divine what the possible justification was for their treatment of the juvenile.''

Crump, the family's attorney, described Martin on Wednesday as ''a good kid'' who made honor roll on his last report card, and played basketball for his school team.

''It is not the policy of our country to kill a kid for going joyriding in his grandmother's car,'' Crump said.

Miami Herald