TAMPA, Fla. — A forensic pathologist who observed a second autopsy on a teen who died at a juvenile boot camp said the results seem to indicate his death was caused by a beating by guards, not by a blood condition.
The body of Martin Lee Anderson, 14, was exhumed in Panama City last week. The new autopsy was ordered after his parents questioned the findings of Bay County’s medical examiner, who concluded the boy died from complications of sickle cell trait.
Dr. Michael Baden, who observed the autopsy on behalf of Anderson’s parents, told Fox News on Monday he believes that conclusion was made in error.
“In my opinion, he would still be alive today if he didn’t suffer that altercation and confrontation,” said Baden, who reviewed medical evidence in the slaying of civil rights leaders Medgar Evers and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
Anderson’s mother said Tuesday that she believes the doctor who performed the first autopsy took part in a cover-up.
“It was a cover-up from Day 1,” his mother, Gina Jones, told NBC’s Today show. “The guards and the nurse, they need to be punished for the crime they did. They took my baby away from me. They killed my baby.”
She said the family believes the teen was targeted for abuse because he had long hair.
Dr. Charles Siebert, medical examiner for the district that includes Bay County, did not immediately return a phone message left at his office Tuesday morning.
Hillsborough County State Attorney Mark Ober said he would have no comment until the investigation is finished. No charges have been filed, and no guards have been arrested or fired, though the camp, operated by the Bay County Sheriff’s Office, has been closed.
The U.S. Attorney’s office in Tallahassee and the U.S. Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division also have opened an investigation into Anderson’s death.
Anderson died Jan. 6, hours after he collapsed during exercises on his first day at the camp. A videotape later released to the media shows that after he stopped the exercises he was struck, kicked and dragged by several guards.
Members of the NAACP, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the Rainbow PUSH Coalition held a vigil outside the medical examiner’s office Monday.
“We wish we didn’t have to be here,” said Adora Obi Nweze, president of the NAACP’s Florida State Conference. “We have reason to doubt our state at this point.”
The Sickle Cell Disease Association of America also weighed in, saying it’s unlikely Anderson would have died from having sickle cell trait.
“Attributing the death of this young man to sickle cell trait given the physical punishment he was put through does a disservice to the public and those in the sickle cell disease community,” said Dr. Willarda V. Edwards, president of the association.