The curious death of Georgia teen Kendrick Johnson remains one of the most-baffling cases to date. On January 11, 2013, the 17-year-old Lowndes High School student’s body was found rolled in to a wrestling mat inside the school’s gymnasium. Despite a shoddy investigation by local authorities and growing evidence that surveillance video may have been altered, justice has been elusive for the Johnson family.
Along the way, Florida attorney Benjamin Crump has aligned himself with the Johnson family in hopes to explore other legal means to expedite the federal investigation in to the case that was launched late last year. In an interview with NewsOne, Mr. Crump spoke on behalf of Johnson’s parents by highlighting their frustrations around the case and also announcing a rally in the small town of Valdosta, where the incident took place:
In the year that Kendrick Johnson first went missing in 2013 until this morning in 2014, they [the Johnson family] still have no answers as to who killed their son. Since last month’s rally in Georgia, the family learned that several FBI agents came to Valdosta to interview several students and the school’s faculty as well.
The agents seized the hard drive, by way of a grand jury subpoena, that contained the school’s surveillance video. Now the family has been pushing for this hard drive to be given to our side, but it was given to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. We were a little disappointed because we wanted to evaluate the video ourselves because we have learned from past dealings that the federal investigation can take up to two or three years, and then they come back and say there’s no probable cause and Kendrick’s death is swept under the rug.
Crump added that the family had always believed the video was altered as previously reported and that they should have rights to have access to the files on the hard drive just as much as anyone else. Crump feels that the hard drive’s raw data would contain the footage that will directly show who entered the gymnasium where Kendrick was found.
Crump and the family is also fighting for an independent coroner to examine the findings, thus allowing for a transparency that has yet to occur in the case. Crump believes that using the independent coroner’s investigation will allow the family to highlight the various inconsistencies they claim plague the case. There is also hope that with the independent survey of the case that the public will demand a full and impartial investigation in to the happenings without any political barriers.
The Johnson family has been blocked by the judge in the case regarding the coroner’s requests since the U.S. Attorney’s Office investigation began late last year. Crump, speaking on behalf of the family, said that the family just wants to see some manner of traction in the case and feels as if all parties on the other side have little cause to rush.
When asked if race is a possible component that is holding up the case, Crump wasn’t shy in stating that could be a possibility.
“This is small town Georgia, and that if this had happened in the reverse that justice would have moved a lot more efficiently,” explained Crump. “With that being said, at best it was an incompetent investigation, and at worst, it was a conspiracy.”
Over the weekend, the family and supporters gathered in Valdosta for a memorial event for Kendrick Johnson. The “K.J. Memorial Rally” was attended by Sybrina Fulton, the Mother of Trayvon Martin, in a show of support of the Johnson family.
On the Kendrick Johnson Memorial Facebook page, several posts on January 11 were focused on key points of the case along with various photos of the teen coupled with statements. There was little media coverage of the actual weekend rally itself although some news outlets announced it.
Crump says the Johnson family may file civil lawsuits against the city of Valdosta, but have tried to remain patient and trust the government to do its job before taking other measures.