The family of Kendrick Johnson, the 17-year-old high school student who was found dead in a rolled-up wrestling mat at his high school in 2013, announced on Tuesday that they were taking legal recourse against the Georgia Bureau of Investigations.
After a second, local investigation into the death of Kendrick Johnson was officially closed with no charges or arrests, nearly ten years after his body was discovered rolled-up inside of a gym mat, concluded his death was a freak accident, Johnson’s family continues to disagrees and maintains the high school basketball players was killed.
As previously reported, Johnson’s body was found on Jan. 11 in South Georgia. Investigators from the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office said he died in a freak accident, saying that he fell headfirst into an upright mat and was trapped.
His body was found by school officials.
At the time, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s Chief Medical Examiner said the death was an accident.
Still, in the intervening years, Johnson’s family has maintained that they believe he was killed.
The state medical examiner said he suffocated after reaching for a shoe that fell into the mat. However, a second autopsy ordered by the family found the teen had a blow to the neck.
Investigators initially said Johnson died after he fell into the gym mat while reaching for a shoe and got stuck. But doubt around the ruling were sparked by inconsistencies in reports, and the gruesome revelation that Kendrick’s body had been stuffed with newspaper before a pathologist hired by the family could conduct a second autopsy.
In January 2013, investigators ruled that Johnson, a sophomore at Lowndes County High School in southern Georgia at the time, had died by an accident and closed the case. His parents and members of the community have pushed over the last nine years for additional investigations –– including into those who were initially involved in the case
The DOJ eventually closed its investigation into Johnson’s death. In 2020, Paulk, who was not a part of the initial local investigation, requested the federal investigator’s paperwork to launch his own investigation.
“We have not had faith in Lowndes County,” Kendrick’s father, Kenneth Johnson said in an interview. “We knew what the outcome would be from the very beginning.”
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