Family of teen who was found dead in gym mat after 'freak accident' claim he was killed and it's being covered up
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The family of a teenager who was found dead in a gym mat after a ‘freak accident’ have claimed he was killed and that the case is being covered up.
It’s been more than 10 years since 17-year-old Kendrick Johnson was found dead at his high school gym.
Ever since, his family have been fighting for answers – refusing to accept that it was accidental, as ruled in May that year, with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation saying the cause of death was asphyxia.
His parents are now suing several law enforcement agencies in a new $1 billion federal lawsuit, with his father Kenneth saying at a news conference today: "We should not have to be the grievers and investigators."
Mother Jacquelyn added: "It's painful. It's hurtful. It's a shame that we have been having to fight for 10 and a half long years.”
Johnson’s body was exhumed in 2018 for a second autopsy, with the findings showing the cause of death was ‘apparent non-accidental, blunt force trauma’.
The case was also reopened in 2021, with Lowndes County Sheriff Ashley Paulk previously saying: “We’ll go through every bit of it. If we found a contradiction, we're going to resolve any contradiction.
“I want to start fresh with it and look at all the way through. I think the community deserves it."
However, Johnson’s death was again ruled accidental, despite the fact his family believe he was murdered by schoolmates and that the real cause of death has been subject to a huge ‘cover up’.
After filing the suit, Johnson’s dad said one example of what the family claim is false information is law enforcement's statement that there was no trauma or major bruising on his son's body.
He says photos of the body showed damage from something like a Taser or stun gun.
"One retired surgeon declared they had not seen anything remotely resembling the body of Kendrick in more than 43 years from their experience with autopsies," the family said.
Investigators previously said Johnson died in a freak accident, having become stuck upside down and unable to breathe as he tried to retrieve a shoe that had fallen into the upright mat.
Last year, Lowndes County Sheriff Ashley Paulk released a synopsis of the case file, saying: “Any person who looks at this case objectively would know that it would be impossible to conceal any evidence due to the involvement of so many agencies and investigators.
“The FBI states unequivocally in its investigation that there was no cover-up or conspiracy.”
Paulk added: "I am quite sure that there will still be a contingent that will believe there was foul play. I encourage everyone to study ALL the evidence in this file before forming an opinion."
UNILAD has reached out to Lowndes County Sheriff and Lowndes High School for comment.