Teen's Boot Camp Death Provokes Outrage

Shocking video prompts teen's mother to right what she felt was wrong.

ByABC News
February 18, 2009, 11:59 AM

Dec. 26, 2007— -- Less than three months ago, in October, a jury's decision to acquit a group of juvenile-detention boot camp guards of manslaughter charges rocked an already enraged community.

A year and a half before, 14-year-old Martin Lee Anderson died while under the supervision of guards at a Panama City, Fla., facility for juvenile offenders. Soon after the teen's death, a surveillance video of the incident surfaced. The series of soundless, grainy images shocked the nation and outraged many in the northern Florida community where Anderson and his family lived.

The guards, shown struggling with Anderson on the tape, said he had collapsed during a mandatory 1-mile run less than a day after he was admitted to the camp. The video shows the guards forcibly picking Anderson up off the ground and hitting him. There are times when Anderson seems to be on his feet, but then his legs crumple beneath him and he pitches forward into the dirt.

In the last few minutes of the video, Anderson collapses, his body splayed on the ground. Paramedics run into the video frame, place him on a gurney and wheel him away. Anderson fell into a coma and died early the next morning.

Grief-stricken, Anderson's parents, Gina Jones and Robert Anderson, demanded to know what had happened to their son, who had been sent to the boot camp on charges that he took his grandmother's car for a joy ride after violating probation.

But before the surveillance tape was made public, Jones and Robert Anderson had only the word of the local coroner, who ruled that their son had died of natural causes.

When word got out there was a video, everything changed. Media outlets filed lawsuits to get access to the material, and Anderson's parents held a news conference, demanding the release of the images. In mid-February 2006, the damning videotape exploded on television and the Internet, setting off a firestorm.

Medical experts began questioning the local coroner's ruling. The Bay County Sheriff's Office ordered the boot camp closed. And a special prosecutor was appointed to oversee the case.

"It's time for them to get charged for murdering my baby in a boot camp," said Anderson's mother in a press conference.