Florida college students protest boot camp death

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) ?” A sit-in at Gov. Jeb Bush’s office stretched into a second day Thursday as about 30 college students protested the state’s response to the boot camp beating of a teenager who later died.

The students, who met with Bush on Wednesday, are demanding the arrest of guards who were videotaped beating and kicking 14-year-old Martin Lee Anderson.

“I’m pretty tired, but I know we got a long day ahead of us, and when you’re working on issues like this – physically the things that are going on almost stop mattering,” said Gabriel Pedras, a Florida State University student who helped organize the protest.

Bush’s office said that the governor planned to meet with Anderson’s parents Thursday, and that the student protests won’t change the way the case is being investigated.

“They certainly have every right to do it. I appreciate their interest in the process. I think it’s very healthy,” Bush said Thursday. “I’ll continue to do what I think is right.”

The students, from Florida State University, Florida A&M University and Tallahassee Community College, said they were planning a protest Friday at the three schools and the Capitol. The Rev. Al Sharpton and the Rev. Jesse Jackson will participate, Sharpton’s office said.

Hillsborough County State Attorney Mark Ober, appointed by Bush as special prosecutor to investigate the case, said he respected the students’ right to protest but urged people to remain patient.

“As I told the [Anderson] family, when it’s all said and done, I will look them in the eye and tell them I ethically and honestly did the very best job,” Ober said. “I intend to get to the bottom of this – it’s going to take a while.”

Bush sent a letter Thursday asking Ober to investigate deleted e-mails belonging to the initial state investigator, who recused himself from the case because of personal ties. State Attorney Steve Meadows has said the e-mails were deleted unintentionally.

The students called on Bush to publicly apologize to the boy’s parents and want the governor to release the findings of a second autopsy performed on Anderson and to revoke the license of a medical examiner who performed the first autopsy.

In the first autopsy, Dr. Charles Siebert ruled the boy died of complications from sickle cell trait, a usually benign blood disorder. Ober witnessed a second autopsy, and his office said Anderson didn’t die of sickle cell, but details haven’t been released.

Bush has said it would be premature to release the findings before the entire investigation is complete.

The governor said Thursday that he told the students he does not have the constitutional power to carry out their demands.

“I appreciate their frustration because I’m frustrated as well,” Bush said. “I told them the facts, told them the truth.”

Bay County has closed its boot camp, and the House Justice Appropriations committee wants to replace camps statewide with residential programs. The U.S. Justice Department is also investigating possible civil rights violations in the case.

A lawyer for the Anderson family has said that he did not help organize the protest but that the family is “appreciative.”