Tesha Tooley, an aunt Georgia teen Kendrick Johnson who was found dead in a gym mat at Lowndes County High School in Valdosta, Ga. , participates in a rally on his behalf at the Georgia State Capitol in Atlanta, Ga., Dec. 11, 2013.
Erik S. Lesser/EPA

FBI seizing surveillance video from Kendrick Johnson’s school


The FBI has been granted a subpoena to seize the original hard drives from the surveillance system at Lowndes High School, where 17-year-old Kendrick Johnson was found dead in a rolled-up gym mat in January, as part of the U.S. Attorney’s investigation into his death, Johnson family attorney Ben Crump tells msnbc. 

It is unclear at this point if the drives have actually been seized. No Lowndes County officials were available for comment Friday. 

Kendrick Johnson’s family began pushing for more information about their son’s death, including the release of that surveillance footage, shortly after the Georgia Bureau of Investigation ruled the death an accident. 

A judge ordered officials to release the material in October, but Johnson’s parents and their lawyers believe the video released to them may have been altered or doctored. Freeze frames of the video they had received earlier had time stamps on them, but the released videos had no such time stamps. They also take issue with the video recording of the area of the gymnasium where the Johnson’s body was found. 

“Out of the 36 cameras, that’s 36 angles, all of them are vivid and clear, except the one that is pointing to the wrestling mats in that corner where Kendrick was found dead,” Crump explained to Rev. Al Sharpton on PoliticsNation on Nov. 8. “That’s the only one that is blurry. That’s the only one that is distorted.” 

“Nineteen hundred hours of tape, the only one that’s distorted is the crux of the matter here,” he said. “Everything else is just fine.” 

Independent forensic video expert Grant Fredericks, who analyzed hours of footage, told CNN that at least an hour of video is missing from the cameras inside the gym, which he found “highly suspicious.”

U.S Attorney Michael Moore announced the federal investigation into the teen’s death in October, saying his objective was “to discover the truth, and I believe that can only be done by gathering all of the relevant information surrounding Mr. Johnson’s death.” 

The initial autopy conducted by state officials concluded Johnson’s death was an accident, the result of “positional asphixia” after he fell into a vertical rolled up gym mat while reaching for his shoe. The Johnson family and their attorneys have questioned that conclusion and the initial investigation into their son’s death, believing foul play may have been involved and that officials may have tried to cover up what really happened to their son. The medical examiner who performed a second autopsy at the behest of the Johnson family after his body was exhumed months later found that the cause of death was blunt force trauma to the neck.  

“The sheriff’s department has described it as a freak death or freak accident, and we think of course it can’t be any more freak than the investigation that followed,” family attorney Chevene King said on PoliticsNation on Nov. 8.

Producer Ben Finley contributed to this report.

Georgia and Justice System

FBI seizing surveillance video from Kendrick Johnson's school