Teen dies at camp for juvenile offenders


Published: Saturday, January 7, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 7, 2006 at 12:18 a.m.
PENSACOLA - A 14-year-old boy died Friday after officials said he had to be restrained by guards when he became uncooperative during the admission process at a boot camp for juvenile offenders.
Florida's director of Juvenile Justice said the state will investigate procedures at Florida's six juvenile boot camps because of the death of Martin Lee Anderson of Bay County.
Anderson had just arrived at the Panama City camp Thursday and was doing push-ups, sit-ups, pull-ups and other exercises that are part of the camp's physical fitness assessment when he became uncooperative and had to be restrained, said Ruth Sasser, spokeswoman for the Bay County Sheriff's Office, which operates the boot camp.
''As to how much restraint, it is my understanding that it was not dramatic or unusual,'' Sasser said. ''They stand beside them or put them on the ground or put them against a wall. They do not hit them or knock them over, nothing physically violent.''
In a statement released late Friday, Department of Juvenile Justice Secretary Anthony Schembri said his agency would review policies and procedures at each of Florida's six juvenile boot camps.
''I am deeply saddened by the death of Martin Lee Anderson who was a youth in custody at the Bay County Sheriff's Office Boot Camp. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends,'' the statement said.
Schembri said his Inspector General would conduct the investigation.
Sasser said Anderson complained of breathing problems after he was restrained and a nurse was called, who recommended that he be taken to the hospital.
Four minutes after an ambulance was called, Anderson became unresponsive, she said. He was taken to Sacred Heart Hospital in Pensacola, where he died early Friday.
''We haven't got a clue why he died. He'd only been there for two hours,'' Sasser said.
Water was available during Thursday's intake proceedings, she said. Anderson was sent to the boot camp after a June arrest for grand theft and had passed a physical screening required for admission to the program, she said.
''Right now no one can understand why we've had this problem. We don't just take anyone for this program, they have to be screened,'' Sasser said.
The Bay County Sheriff's Office, The Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Department of Juvenile Justice are investigating the death.
''We are putting this on the priority list and will move as quickly as humanly possible,'' said Cynthia Lorenzo, a spokeswoman for DJJ.
Lorenzo said DJJ would likely wait until the investigation is finished before making any decisions about changes in its relationship with the Bay County boot camp. The state contracts with the county to operate the camp.
FDLE spokesman Tom Berlinger said his agency would assist the Bay County Sheriff's Office and DJJ with the investigation.
The camp opened in 1994 as an alternative-to-prison program for the DJJ. It is a six-month, military style program for offenders between the ages of 14 and 18 found guilty of committing at least a third-degree felony.
The News Herald of Panama City reported two other instances in the program's 12 years that emergency medical crews were called to the camp - after an instructor had chest pains and when a teen appeared to be suffering from pneumonia.

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