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Left. Left. Left. Right … He’s Dead?

army-1.jpgHave you folks been following that boot-camp case down in Florida, where a 14-year-old African-American kid died only a few hours after he checked in to the state-run program? I’ve been trying so hard to avoid any spoilers about this week’s “Kid Nation” that this headline got lost in the shuffle of stories I was avoiding on my RSS feeds.

Anyway, it’s a pretty messed up situation. As I understand it, Martin Lee Anderson was sent to the boot camp for violating probation on his grand-theft auto conviction. Apparently, the kid had some sort of sickle-cell condition. So a few hours after he checked in, he refused to participate in a mandatory run, citing his condition. Well the guards who run the boot camp weren’t crazy about Anderson’s refusal to participate, so they restrained him against a pole, pinned him to the ground, and kneed and hit him. After they wrestled Anderson to the ground, they attempted to rouse him with ammonia. Unfortunately, he was dead.

So the folks who ran the boot camp where brought up on charges stemming from Anderson’s death but, last week, a jury of six white people failed to convict the guards, despite damning video evidence. Why? I have no idea. But a lot of folks down in Panama City think it has something to do with racism, and they have plenty of reason to believe as much.

First, the video shows that the guards were basically beating up the poor kid. The guards, however, countered that they “acted in accordance with their training and experience in the paramilitary environment of the boot camp, where offenders would often fake injury or illness to avoid the rigorous physical exercises.” Really? They were trained to beat the holy-living hell out of kids who were faking injuries? Where the hell did they get their training? The Israeli army? And since when does training excuse homicide?

Second, the boot-camp employees say that the video evidence doesn’t tell the whole story. They said that it didn’t pick up sounds, so you couldn’t “hear the words being spoken or understand the threat [Anderson] posed with his actions and body language.” Eight guards trained in a paramilitary environment felt that a 14-year-old kid with a condition was a threat? Because of his body language? Give me a goddamn break.

What else. Oh, the initial autopsy revealed that Anderson had died of complications stemming from his sickle-cell condition. However, after the town starting crying foul, then Gov. Jeb Bush appointed an independent medical examiner and a second autopsy revealed that Anderson died of suffocation and ammonia inhalation due to the actions of the guards. Apparently, the jury still wasn’t convinced.

And it’s not like the guards were particularly convincing with their testimony. One former drill instructor, Henry Dickens (who is also black), said this on the stand: “They’ve been calling me an Uncle Tom, but this was never about race. We cared about this kid. The kids are our future.”

The kids are our future? Dude steals a Whitney Houston line and the jury buys it? And he’s trying to convince the jury that he “cared about this kid,” who he met only a few hours before, and who he then beat up for purportedly faking an injury? I’m sorry, this is bullshit. But, at this point, it’s typical of what we expect out of Florida.

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Comments

I would love to know where they got their "para-military" training. I never had a hand laid on me while I was in bootcamp (USN) and furthermore, if a recruit, no matter how big of a screw up or a shitbag, made a complaint against an RDC, navy speak for drill instructor, it launched an investigation. I'm willing to bet the majority of these "drill instructors" have more training as mall cops than in the military. These tough love bootcamp deals are just a series of lawsuits waiting to happen.