The Federal Bureau of Investigation will begin investigating the death of Kendrick Johnson, the seventeen-year-old who was found rolled up in a high school wrestling mat in January, after months of protest from Kenneth and Jacquelyn Johnson regarding the investigation conducted by the Lowndes County Sheriff's Office in Valdosta, Ga. The family believes that the official cause of death, which was pronounced to be accidental within one day of its discovery, was homicide.
Kendrick Johnson was a football and basketball player for Lowndes High School. His father says he was a loving son and a good brother - "Everyone would have liked to have a son like Kendrick," Kenneth told CNN. The Johnson family was shocked to hear that their athletic son had died because the blood had rushed to his head after he fell into a wrestling mat, as the official coroner's report had indicated. Their disbelief continued to grow as more evidence about their son's death surfaced, and they now believe that the sheriff's office has intentionally covered up the details of their son's death.
Although the local sheriff's office conducted over 100 student interviews, the Johnson family has been protesting for months that the investigation of Kendrick's death was not done thoroughly nor according to proper protocol. Photographs of the death scene show that there was blood on the wall, a hooded sweatshirt, and a pair of shoes within close proximity of Kendrick's body which were not gathered as evidence at the time of the investigation. Although the sheriff's office said that the blood had been tested, and that it was not Kendrick's, it would be expected that they try to determine whose it was and whose articles of clothing were near the body. In addition, Kendrick's body had been moved prior to the coroner's arrival on the scene, and the boy's fingernails appear to have been cut by someone while he was still rolled up in the mat. The Lowndes County Sheriff's Office maintains, however, that they did a thorough investigation of Kendrick's death, and says they welcome the FBI investigation.
Because they suspected foul play, the Johnson family had Kendrick's body exhumed and had an independent autopsy performed on it. The coroner found bleeding under Kendrick's jaw, indicating that the boy had taken at least one blow to the neck. He also discovered that many of Kendrick's organs were missing, and that his body had been stuffed with newspaper prior to burial. This was shocking news for the Johnsons, who had not been made aware that their son's organs had been discarded.
U.S. Attorney Michael Moore has opened the federal investigation of Kendrick Johnson's death, and the family is rejoicing - "I am of the opinion that a sufficient basis exists for my office to conduct a formal review of the facts and investigation surrounding the death of Kendrick Johnson ... my objective is to discover the truth," he says.
Video footage from security cameras are scheduled to be released over the next few days, some of which show Kendrick entering the high school gymnasium on the day of his death. "We want the Johnson family and the community to have confidence in the [investigatory] process," says Moore. As of yet, many of their questions remain unanswered.