A 14-year-old boy was "brutally" beaten by guards and "flung around like a rag doll" at a boot camp for juvenile delinquents in Panama City hours before he died at a Panhandle hospital, according to two lawmakers who on Wednesday saw a videotape of the incident.
The video, which recorded the last 20 to 30 minutes of the teen's stay at the Bay County Sheriff's Office Boot Camp, shows officers at times kicking, punching and choking Martin Lee Anderson after he refused, or was unable, to comply with officers' orders to run or do other exercises, the legislators said.
Martin, of Panama City, died Jan. 6 at Pensacola's Sacred Heart Hospital, hours after he was admitted to the boot camp, which is operated under a contract with the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice.
The state Department of Law Enforcement, which is investigating Martin's death, showed the camp videotape to two members of the Florida House of Representatives who oversee youth corrections, and at least four members of the governor's staff at FDLE headquarters Wednesday morning.
Clearly shaken, state Rep. Gus Barreiro told The Miami Herald that the tape depicted "the most heinous treatment of a human being" he had ever seen. "It was obvious to me the kid was unconscious, and they were still abusing him. People will be outraged when they see this tape, and they should be outraged.
"This could be anybody's son, " added Barreiro, a Miami Beach Republican who chairs the House Juvenile Justice Appropriations Committee, and has headed a separate committee investigating alleged abuses in DJJ facilities.
State Rep. Dan Gelber, a Miami Beach Democrat who investigated dozens of alleged police brutality cases as head of the U.S. attorney's office civil-rights division in Miami for a decade, also saw the video.
"There's no question that the force used here was well beyond what was necessary for the situation, " Gelber said. "The truth is that this kid died in custody. . . . What we saw was very, very distressing."
A spokesman for Gov. Jeb Bush confirmed that four staffers from his office viewed the tape, but he declined to discuss what they saw. The officials were Bush Chief of Staff Mark Kaplan, Public Safety Policy Director Randy Ball, Deputy Chief of Staff Carol Gormley, and legal advisor Vicki Brennan.
"They viewed the video in light of their duties overseeing the [juvenile justice] agency, " said Bush spokesman Russell Schweiss. "They thought it was appropriate to help them understand the incident."
FDLE officials and the Bay County Sheriff's Office declined to discuss the contents of the tape Wednesday. The FDLE also denied a request from The Miami Herald for a copy.
"We believe, in good faith, that this video is not a public record at this time, " said FDLE spokesman Tom Berlinger. "The limited disclosure that took place this morning was to government officials who have oversight authority of state government agencies."
The Miami Herald was not able to reach a spokeswoman for the Department of Juvenile Justice, which has consistently declined to discuss the investigation.
On Jan. 17, Bay County Sheriff Frank McKeithen issued a terse statement, saying release of the tape will raise "many questions, concerns and accusations."
"We must not leave you with the impression that this is going to have a good ending, " he wrote.
Said Barreiro on Wednesday: "I now know why the sheriff was so concerned."