Family demands federal investigation into mysterious death of student

Claudine Zap
Claudine Zap
The Lookout

The family of Kendrick Johnson is demanding a federal investigation into his death.

The body of the 17-year-old was found in a rolled up mat in the gym of Lowndes High School, where he was a student.

While the Georgia Bureau of Investigation has ruled the death an accident, his family disagreed, believing that Johnson was murdered at the school.

According to a story on ABC local station WALB News 10, officials believe Johnson, who died in January, “was in the gym alone, reached into the mat to get something he dropped, and got stuck.”

The final autopsy report ruled the death accident as a result of “positional asphyxia.”

The family is not convinced. A Facebook page and organizations like Atlanta's National Action Network have brought attention to the case, claiming that it was bungled: The coroner's office wasn't notified until hours after Johnson's death, and the body was moved and his clothes misplaced.

The sheriff denies that the body or clothes were moved, but the coroner's office has expressed anger at not being contacted sooner.

"We want an independent investigation, let's just say by an agency with higher credentials than Lowndes County," chapter president Marcus Coleman told WALB.

"There's been a number of what we feel are inconsistencies, are mishandlings, and for that very reason is why we want another set of eyes," he added.

The family has organized community protests in Valdosta. One was attended by the civil rights activist Al Sharpton.

The reverend started a fund for which he contributed $500 to give to anyone who had evidence that would prove the student's death was not accidental.

"It puts Valdosta on the map for real,” Johnson’s aunt, Susie Kier, said. She added, “It lets the people of Valdosta, Georgia, know that Kendrick Johnson's life stood for something. Let them know that he was a great little boy. That we loved him dearly."

According to the Examiner, the family has requested a coroner’s inquest, and Lowndes County Coroner Bill Watson agreed to proceed.