Speaking from the church made famous by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., the parents of Kendrick Johnson said they will continue to fight for justice. Kenneth and Jacqueline Johnson, whose 17-year-old son died nearly a year ago, are planning a rally on the steps of the Georgia State Capitol building Wednesday to call for further investigation into Kendrick’s death.
“We are not making any accusations, we are not making any recriminations,” said Jaquelyn Johnson. “We are calling for an investigation.”
Johnson’s parents have been pushing for authorities to re-open the investigation since GBI investigators said Kendrick suffocated while trying to retrieve a shoe from a rolled up mat in the gym at Valdosta’s Lowndes High School. A second autopsy, ordered by the family, found the cause of death to be a fatal blow to the neck.
Kendrick’s parents said few words and only made one request during the appearance at Ebenezer.
“I’m asking everybody to stand with us as we fight this fight to the get the truth for my son,” Jaquelyn said.
Inside the church Sunday, the congregation stood in faith alongside the Johnsons.
“The reputation of our state is on the line, and we cannot allow Georgia to have a moral and ethical black eye,” said Raphael Warnock, Senior Pastor at Ebenezer. “Our message at that rally and our message that afternoon is simple and very clear: The lives of all of our children matter.”
The saga has continued to unfold for the better part of a year, with the family appearing on CNN and other networks and television shows pleading their case to the nation.
The family’s attorney, Benjamin Crump, who also represented Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton after the death of their son, Trayvon Martin, has also been spurring calls for a new investigation.
“There are so many questions yet unanswered,” Crump said on CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360” in November. “As we’ve said before, this is a real-life murder mystery and there just seems to be more and more adding to the mystery.”
Crump has been vocal since he began representing the Johnsons that he and the family are dissatisfied with the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office and their finding that Kendrick’s death was accidental.
“(Kendrick’s) parents have always said, all they want to know is the truth,” said Crump after the release of a video from the school’s surveillance system that appeared to have been edited. “And this video tape seems to tell us that the truth has not come out yet, almost as if something was done with this one video to help conceal the truth. But we’re going to keep pressing to get the truth to this murder mystery.”
In October, Michael Moore, the U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Georgia, said that federal authorities would investigate the circumstances behind the death of Johnson. While warning his jurisdiction was limited as a federal prosecutor, Moore said that after a lengthy review of evidence collected by authorities and the family’s own investigator that “sufficient basis exists” to warrant a formal review of the facts.
Should evidence gathered in the investigation warrant criminal or civil rights charges, he said he would recommend them.
“I will follow the facts wherever they lead. My objective is to discover the truth,” he said.
The family and its supporters will make their way to the capitol building on Wednesday in a show of support for Kendrick.
“We are Kendrick Johnson,” Jacquelyn Johnson said earlier this year. “That’s my child, and we’re going to fight until it’s all over, until we get the truth. That’s all we’ve ever asked for — was the truth about what happened to Kendrick Johnson.”