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Daniel Caesar
Daniel Caesar
May 20, 2024

The Covered Up Death of Kendrick Johnson

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Kendrick Johnson was born on October 10th, 1995 to Jacquelyn and Kenneth Johnson. Kendrick’s family described him as a sweet and quiet boy. Johnson went to Lowndes County High School. He also played basketball and football and ran track while attending. Kendrick was a three-sport athlete and wanted to be a professional football player. 

On January 11, 2013, Kendrick Johnson was found by students in the gym of his high school wrapped inside a wrestling mat. On the ground below Kendrick, lay one black and white shoe on top of a pile of blood, which was figured to be the one he was reaching for. An autopsy done by the GBI (Georgia Bureau of Investigation) stated that Johnson’s cause of death was positional asphyxia, and the case was then ruled accidental. Authorities concluded that Johnson had fallen into the mat while looking for a pair of shoes he had stuck inside the mat and died because he couldn’t get out. Johnson’s family did not believe this, which led to another separate autopsy done by William R. Anderson on June 15th, 2013. Anderson announced that his report found blunt force trauma to his neck near his right shoulder and suggested the death was not an accident. The independent autopsy also revealed that after Kendrick was taken from the mat to the funeral home, his body had been stuffed with newspapers. The funeral home stated they never received the organs from the coroner, which were said to have “been destroyed through the natural process.”  The Johnson family filed a complaint against the funeral home owner and stated they wholeheartedly believed he was murdered. Consequently, Johnson’s organs were either lost or disposed of and could not be tested during the second autopsy, and this in turn raised more suspicion for Kendrick’s family. After multiple groups of people stated the funeral home was not guilty of mishandling Kendrick’s body, the Johnsons filed a lawsuit against it. The family then requested his body be exhumed for a second time and it was then exhumed on June 22, 2018, five years after his death. 

In November 2013, 290 hours of CCTV footage covering the gym were released to CNN per a court request. A forensic analyst revealed that tapes from two cameras were missing 65 minutes of footage while another set was missing two hours and ten minutes. Analysis of the footage attempted to explain the cause, casting doubt on that theory. The Johnson family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Lowndes County Board of Education, its superintendent, and the principal of Lowndes High School. It alleged that the defendants ignored reports concerning Kendrick being targeted by a white student, and said that he was attacked on a bus trip a year and 2 months before his death. It also alleged that another student, Brian Bell, had a history of attacking and provoking Kendrick at school and that the interactions were sometimes seen by coaches and staff members. In January 2015, Kendrick’s family filed a civil lawsuit for $100 million in the Superior Court against 38 individuals, including three of Johnson’s classmates and local, state, and federal officials. Despite the two attorneys in charge of the case resigning, the Department of Justice still continued to try and solve the case, and filed a motion for them to intervene. After the Justice Department’s motion was declined, Kendrick’s family dismissed their wrongful death lawsuit and hoped to refile it later. 

On June 20th, 2016, the Department of Justice announced that no criminal charges would be filed, stating that after some extensive research, investigators determined there was not sufficient evidence to prove anything else other than reasonable doubt. On August 10th, 2017, Georgia Judge Richard Porter ruled that Kendrick’s family and their attorney were required to pay $292,000 in legal fees to the dozens of individuals in their civil suit, saying “Testimony shows that they had no evidence to support their claims.” On March 10th, 2021, the case was officially reopened. Unfortunately, Lowndes County Sheriff Ashley Paulk stated that he wouldn’t be claiming there was anything wrong with the original investigation or that the original investigation’s conclusion was wrong. He also said that he did not suspect the death to be a homicide and that the two brothers originally accused were not suspects. For the 10-year anniversary of his death, Johnson’s sister, Kenyetta, hosted a sibling grief support group and all of his family watched a documentary about his death. Kendrick’s mom, Jacquelyn, said in an interview, “It’s painful. It’s hurtful. It’s a shame that we have been having to fight for 10 and a half long years.” She also said that she and her family were going to continue to fight for Kendrick because his life mattered.

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About the Contributor
Kaeden Wise, Writer
Kaeden Wise is a sophomore in high school at Forest Grove High School. They have two cats, Olivia and Koda and two older siblings. Their goal is to be a social or health worker.

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    Wendy CruzDec 4, 2023 at 12:36 pm

    This is so Sad! I hope him and his family get justice.

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