According to CNN, the guards who roughed up a Florida teenager at a military-style bootcamp, who later died, will be charged in his death. This incident, which took place around Pensacola, was a huge scandal for Florida which resulted in the resignation of Florida’s top law officer and the end of state-run bootcamp.
Apparently what happened was Martin Lee Anderson, 14 years old, felt ill and refused to continue exercising. After being roughed up by the guards (which was caught on videotape) for over 30 minutes, he passed out. To try to revive him, they used ammonia capsules (aka smelling salts) several times, even cramming them into his nose. Using smelling salts more than once or twice can cause serious health complications, and are not advised to be administered by non-medically trained personnel.
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He said the guards’ hands blocked the boy’s mouth, and the “forced inhalation of ammonia fumes” caused his vocal cords to spasm, blocking his upper airway.
The guards had said in an incident report that they used ammonia capsules five times on Anderson to gain his cooperation.
The intense ammonia fumes caused his throat to spasm and close, restricting his breathing until he suffocated and died. This was concluded by the second autopsy–the first believe he died of complications of sickle cell trait. Ammonia capsules are essentially ammonium carbonate, which when mixed with water or alcohol produces potent NH3 ammonia gas. It is this gas which irritates the nasal membranes, triggering an inhalation reflex. However, too much of this reflex can have the opposite effect, and close off air passageways.
[Side note: Ammonia tablets can be seen here, on a website that hawks them to weightlifters to use “before the big lift.”]