Petition renews interest in Valdosta teen’s gym mat death

Georgia News
Kendrick Johnson_129997

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Seven years after the death of Valdosta teen Kendrick Johnson, online petitioners and celebrities have renewed a call for justice.

The 17-year-old was found dead by classmates in 2013 at Lowndes High School. Investigators ultimately called it a freak accident — that he got stuck upside down, unable to breathe while trying to grab a shoe that fell inside an upright gym mat.

Kendrick’s parents, Kenneth and Jacquelyn Johnson have insisted he was murdered and in a lawsuit that was later dropped, accused two brothers of killing their son.

More than 1.3 million people have signed a petition to reopen the case which was closed after the Justice Department “found insufficient evidence to support federal criminal charges.”

Kim Kardashian West, who has in recent years lobbied for criminal justice reform, shared the petition on Twitter over the weekend, writing, “Please sign this! We demand justice for Kendrick!”

Benjamin Crump, a lawyer for the Johnsons who is currently representing George Floyd’s family, also tweeted out the petition saying what happened to Kendrick “is horrific, yet his killer was never held accountable.”

Petitioners seem hopeful that enough interest in the case will push investigators to take a second look.

First Coast News reports the Johnsons refiled a lawsuit over Kendrick’s death in May of last year, “contending that their son’s clothes and organs, including his brain, were disposed of to interfere with the investigation into the teen’s death.”

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation this week issued a statement about its role in the case, including the autopsy.

The GBI has received numerous inquiries from the public about our involvement in the 2013 Kendrick Johnson death investigation. This case was investigated by the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office, the FBI, and the Department of Justice.

Our agency assisted the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office in the case by processing the scene. Our Medical Examiner’s Office conducted an autopsy on Johnson.

This investigation is closed. All GBI documents pertaining to the case are available upon request through GBI’s Open Records Unit.

The family has since had two additional autopsies performed. According to First Coast News, a representative for Kendrick’s family said that the first autopsy stated positional asphyxia and the other two stated blunt force trauma.

“His death was not accidental,” the online petition states. “We have all of the answers but we demand justice!”

Meanwhile, Patrick O’Connor with Oliver Maner LLP, representing the individuals mentioned in the petition, is demanding a retraction and $5 million “to resolve the matter without suit.”

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Trending Stories