May 5, 2006
Teen suffocated at Florida boot camp: autopsy
MIAMI (Reuters) - A 14-year-old boy whose beating by guards
at a Florida boot camp was captured on videotape died of
suffocation "due to actions of the guards," but not because of
the beating, according to a second autopsy released on Friday.
The autopsy found Martin Lee Anderson died because his
mouth was blocked and he inhaled ammonia fumes, which resulted
in a spasm in his vocal cords and a blockage in his airway.
People who viewed the videotape have said it appeared the
guards administered ammonia capsules to try to keep Anderson
Anderson's death on January 6 at a Panama City juvenile
detention camp stirred a storm of controversy when a videotape
of the beating was made public and a medical examiner found he
died of internal bleeding from sickle cell trait, a previously
undiagnosed blood disorder.
That finding, by Bay County Medical Examiner Dr. Charles
Siebert, was widely discredited and outraged Anderson's
relatives and civil rights groups.
The second autopsy, performed by Hillsborough County
Medical Examiner Dr. Vernard Adams, said the beating by the
guards left bruises, but did not contribute to Anderson's
"Martin Anderson's death was caused by suffocation due to
actions of the guards at the boot camp," Adams said in a
"The suffocation was caused by manual occlusion of the
mouth, in concert with forced inhalation of ammonia fumes that
caused spasm of the vocal cords resulting in internal blockage
of the upper airway."
The medical examiner's statement offered no explanation as
to how Anderson inhaled ammonia, which is used in smelling
salts to revive unconscious or semi-conscious people.
In March, Dr. Michael Baden, a New York doctor who observed
the second autopsy and the videotape, said the guards held
ammonia under Anderson's nose and put a hand over his mouth
while restraining him.
Adams' autopsy also found that Anderson had sickle cell
trait. One in 12 African-Americans has sickle cell trait, which
is different from sickle cell disease and does not routinely
cause health problems.
Adams and Hillsborough County State Attorney Mark Ober both
said they would have no further comment on the autopsy results.
The state attorney's office is conducting a criminal
investigation of Anderson's death.
Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said he was disturbed by the second
autopsy's findings and called the actions of the guards
"We all have one goal, and that is to see justice is served
for Martin Lee Anderson," Bush said in a written statement.