Reaction to Boot Camp Death Arrests

By: Laura Kadechka Email
By: Laura Kadechka Email

After 11 months of protests, two autopsies and fear charges would never be filed, the parents of 14-year-old Martin Lee Anderson say justice is finally served.

His father, Robert Anderson, said, "I feel a brick has been lifted from my shoulders."

Special prosecutor Mark Ober met with Gina Jones and Robert Anderson Tuesday morning to tell them he filed charges of aggravated manslaughter against seven former Bay County boot camp guards and a nurse for the death of their son in January.

A video camera captured the guards striking and kicking Anderson and was released to the public earlier this year.

One of the family's attorneys, Benjamin Crump, said, "You wanted one of them to say, ‘Guys, stop. This is enough, this isn't right.’"

Crump said the arrests are a big step and now he hopes for convictions.

Gina Jones, Anderson's mother, said, "It took a long time. I was impatient, but it was worth it."

Just as impatient were the Tallahassee college students and national leaders, such as Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson. All converged on the Capitol during the last 11 months, calling for action and fearing it would never come.

Gregory Woodall, a FAMU student government leader who was among those protesting, said, "I'm just happy to see finally after almost a year that something is finally getting done."

Ober says he ignored calls for a rush judgment as he built his case against the guards. He reviewed twenty-thousand pages of documents and requested a second autopsy, performed after Anderson's body was exhumed in March. It showed Anderson died of suffocation as a result of the actions by the guards, not a sickle cell trait complication as initially ruled by the Bay County medical examiner.

Ober said, "We have proved this conduct cannot be tolerated and will not be tolerated in this society and none of us are above the law."

After nearly a year of grief, frustrations and doubt, Anderson's parents said they'll finally go to bed in peace, knowing justice was served.

His mother added, "Today is a good day for me. I'm finally getting justice for my baby."

Gov. Bush said he hopes the charges will give the family a sense that the judicial process can work, adding that first degree manslaughter for eight people is a pretty strong statement.


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