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Kendrick Johnson Case Reopened: 17-Year-Old was Found Dead at School Gym in 2013

OPINION

Kendrick Johnson Case Reopened: 17-Year-Old  was Found Dead at School Gym in 2013The body of 17-year-old Kendrick Johnson was found rolled up inside a gym mat in his school’s gymnasium back in 2013. Local authorities believe Kendrick died while trying to reach into the mat to retrieve a pair of sneakers.

His parents Jacqueline and Kenneth Johnson, say Kendrick was murdered. In 2016, the Department of Justice closed the case citing “insufficient evidence to support federal criminal charges,” but after rallies and protests, have reopened the investigation.

Kendrick Johnson Case Reopened-video

Death of Kendrick Johnson (wiki)

On January 11, 2013, the body of Kendrick Johnson (October 10, 1995 – January 10, 2013) was discovered inside a vertical rolled-up mat in the gymnasium of Lowndes High School in Valdosta, in the U.S. state of Georgia, where he was a student. A preliminary investigation and autopsy concluded that the death was accidental.

KENDRICK JOHNSON
PHOTO URL- ATLANTA JOURNAL CONSTITUTION

Johnson’s family had a private pathologist conduct a second autopsy which concluded that Johnson died from blunt force trauma. On October 31, 2013, the U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Georgia announced that his office would open a formal review into Johnson’s death. On June 20, 2016, the US DOJ announced that it would not be filing any criminal charges related to Johnson’s death.

 Kendrick Johnson’s family filed a $100 million civil lawsuit against 38 individuals. The lawsuit alleged that Johnson’s death was a murder and accused the respondents of a conspiracy to cover up the homicide, which involved two sons of an FBI agent.

That lawsuit was subsequently withdrawn. Georgia Judge Richard Porter ordered the Johnsons and their attorney to pay more than $292,000 in legal fees to the defendants. The judge in that case accused the Johnsons and their attorney of fabricating evidence to support their claims.

KENDRICK JOHNSON

Johnson was found headfirst in the center of a vertical rolled-up wrestling mat, in his high school gym, on January 11, 2013. His body was discovered by students who had climbed up to the top of a cluster of mats, each of which stood nearly six feet tall and three feet wide. An autopsy by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) stated that Johnson had died from positional asphyxia, and the case was ruled an accidental death by the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office.

They hypothesized that Johnson had fallen into the mat while looking for a shoe and died after being unable to get out. Three students told investigators that it was common for some students to store their shoes behind or under the rolled up mats. Johnson was not wearing shoes when he was found. A student at the school said that he shared a pair of Adidas shoes with Johnson, and that after gym class Johnson would always “go to the mats, jump up and toss the shoes inside the middle of the hole.”

Lt. Stryde Jones, who headed up the investigation for the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office stated: “We never had credible information that indicated this was anything other than an accident.” Johnson’s family questioned this hypothesis. Unsatisfied with the result of the investigation, Johnson’s family hired an independent autopsy conducted by William R. Anderson with Forensic Dimensions in Heathrow, Florida on June 15. Anderson claimed that his findings indicated traces of blunt force trauma to the right neck and soft tissues, and suggested the death was not accidental.

Surveillance tape

Surveillance footage of Johnson entering the gymnasium shortly before he died’

In November 2013, 290 hours of surveillance tape from 35 cameras that covered the gym area was released to CNN following a court request. A forensic analyst enlisted by CNN found that tapes from two cameras are missing an hour and five minutes of footage, while another set was missing two hours and ten minutes of footage. Some of the apparent lapses in coverage were found to result from camera systems that were not synchronized with one another.

Time stamps between some separate camera systems differed by as much as 20 minutes for the same time period, giving the impression of a gap for portions of the footage where no gap existed. Other missing footage was the result of the camera’s motion-activated function not being triggered.

Camera systems were motion-activated, using a change in light pixels to turn recordings on and off. The area where Johnson’s body was discovered, where the gym mats were stored, was outside the range of all of the surveillance cameras.

KENDRICK JOHNSON, DEAD, GYM MAT
PHOTO URL FOX 40

Attorneys for the Johnson family expressed fears that the camera footage was edited as part of a cover-up. However, analysis of the camera systems by the Valdosta Daily Times purported to explain the anomalies, casting doubt on the theory of a cover-up.

 The president of the Valdosta-Lowndes County chapter of the SCLC and the former lead investigator for that chapter have stated that they believe the attorneys for the Johnsons have “not been entirely truthful in their statements” and that there was no cover-up in this case. # kendrick johnson

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