The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is "cautiously optimistic" about today's (Nov 28) announcement by a special prosecutor that seven Florida boot camp guards and a nurse have been charged with aggravated manslaughter for their alleged role in the death of Martin Lee Anderson earlier this year.
Rough handling of Anderson by the guards was videotaped, sparking protests, resignation of the state's top law enforcement officer and elimination of the boot camp-style penal system for juveniles in the state.
"We are cautiously optimistic," said NAACP President & CEO Bruce S. Gordon. "A positive message is being sent by at least acknowledging criminal behavior took place in this tragic incident. This is a start. As this investigation continues, we are hopeful that the role of the medical examiner's office will also be considered given the questions surrounding their initial autopsy."
An initial autopsy by medical examiner Dr. Charles Siebert found Anderson died of complications of sickle cell trait, a usually benign blood disorder. A second autopsy by Dr. Vernard Adams, the medical examiner for Hillsborough County, found Anderson's death was caused by suffocation due to the guards' actions. Adams said the suffocation was caused by hands blocking the boy's mouth, as well as "forced inhalation of ammonia fumes" that caused his vocal cords to spasm, blocking Anderson's upper airway. The guards reported that they used ammonia capsules five times on Anderson to gain his cooperation.
Anderson, 14, collapsed on the exercise yard two hours after arriving at the Bay County sheriff's camp in Panama City January 5. Guards said the teen was uncooperative and refused to continue participating in exercises that were part of the camp's intake processes. He died early the next morning at Sacred Heart Hospital in Pensacola.
The NAACP led a march and rally June 3 to press for continued investigation of the Anderson case and other incidents involving the deaths of juveniles in custody.
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