The mysterious death of a high school student in Georgia is going to get a full investigation, after the boy’s parents pressured authorities for months.
U.S. Attorney Michael Moore announced Thursday that he is opening a federal investigation into Kendrick Johnson’s death, which had been deemed an accident by local police.
“My objective is to discover the truth, and I believe that can only be done by gathering all of the relevant information surrounding Mr. Johnson’s death,” Moore said, adding that the FBI is involved in the investigation.
Johnson’s body was found in a rolled up in a gym mat at his school.
Surveillance video released Wednesday by a judge shows Johnson and other students walking around Lowndes High School in Valdosta, Ga. The newly released video shows Johnson walking into the gymnasium where his body was found, but doesn’t show the events immediately leading up to his death.
The Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office investigation initially ruled Johnson’s death was an accident. According to the official autopsy report released by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, the athletic teen who played multiple sports died from suffocation after he fell headfirst into the gym mat inside his high school on January 11.
But his parents have never believed those reports, insisting the cirumstances show their son was murdered. Benjamin Crump, one of the family attorneys, calls the case “a real life murder mystery.”
“It is asinine to believe that an exceptional athlete, 17 years old, would climb into a wrestling mat, get stuck and die,” Crump said on NewsNation Thursday. “It defies all logic, all the laws of physics, and all common sense. He was murdered, and we’re trying to find out who murdered him and who’s covering up for all the individuals involved.”
In May, the Johnson family lawyers released a paramedic’s report that revealed the EMT who examined the teen’s body believed the high school gym should be considered a crime scene because of injuries he found. In October, an independent autopsy conducted after Johnson’s body was exhumed concluded that his death was caused by ”unexplained, apparent non-accidental, blunt force trauma,” according to CNN.
“Facts, not feelings or opinions, no matter how sincere they may be, are the basis of a legal investigation,” Moore said while announcing his new investigation Thursday. “I do this with an open mind, neither accepting nor rejecting the opinions of anyone who has previously investigated the circumstances of his death.”
“As long as it comes out the truth of what happened to Kendrick, we will accept it, but it’s got to be the truth,” Johnson’s father Kenneth Johnson told Rev. Al Sharpton. “That’s all we ever asked for was the truth.”
“We are looking for an investigation that we can believe in,” Johnson family attorney Chevene King added. “One that demonstrates a sincere interest in identifying the persons responsible for Kendrick’s death.”
“If it was an accident then of course there ought to be proof that the investigation could produce for the parents and for the public quite frankly to look at and say, ‘Okay, I understand that as strange as the theory that the sherriff offered may sound, it turns out to be the truth,’” he said.
“We have no faith in the investigation done thus far,” he continued. “We are enthused about what the U.S Attorney announced today, however we are going to still go forward in pursuing our own investigation and making as much information as we can possibly produce available to the U.S. Attorney.”