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Youth was suffocated by guards at bootcamp, medical examiner says


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Martin Lee Anderson was suffocated to death by guards who held his mouth and forced him to inhale ammonia fumes, a special prosecutor investigating the 14-year-old boy's Jan. 6 death announced today.


In a short press release, Hillsborough State Attorney Mark Ober, appointed by Gov. Jeb Bush to handle the controversial case, said an autopsy of the youth showed Martin died of suffocation ``due to occlusion of the mouth and inhalation of ammonia fumes.''


The announcement ends a bitter chapter in the tragic case, which began Jan. 5 when a group of guards at the Bay County Sheriff's Office Boot Camp punched, kneed and choked Martin hours after he was admitted to the camp. The guards used physical force after the youth complained he was unable to continue running laps.


In February, Bay County Chief Medical Examiner Charles F. Siebert ruled that Martin, following rigorous exercise, essentially bled to death after a genetic disorder, sickle cell trait, set off a cascade of events that caused his blood to cease clotting.


The second autopsy was conducted by Dr. Vernard Adams, Hillsborough County's chief medical examiner. In a brief statement, Adams said his investigation was aided by an enhancement done by NASA of a 30- to 40-minute videotape of Martin's manhandling at the boot camp.


''At my request, the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office created a detailed timeline of events from the enhanced video,'' Adams wrote. ``I have reviewed all investigative reports as well as all known medical records for Martin Anderson. My opinions are based on all available information, including the video, police reports, medical records and autopsy findings.''


''Martin Anderson's death was caused by suffocation due to actions of the guards at the boot camp,'' Adams wrote.


The news rippled this afternoon through the state Capitol, where the state Legislature is wrapping up a contentious session before going home. The House already had passed the Martin Lee Anderson Act, which shut down the state's four remaining boot camps and replaces them with a less militaristic approach.


The legislative black caucus, which has held weekly press conferences to put pressure on the governor to resolve the case more quickly, hurriedly ended its conference Friday to digest the news.


State Sen. Frederica Wilson, a member of the caucus, summed up the feelings of her colleagues, who on Friday called on Bush to fire or suspend Sieber: ``Suffocation is murder.''





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