Parents of Dead Georgia Teen Continue Fight
By Cyril Josh Barker
As the fight to get to the bottom of the mysterious death of a Black Georgia teen continues, the parents of the victim have taken their voices to the state’s capital with the help of a historic church.
On Sunday, the parents of Kendrick Johnson vowed to not give up the fight to find out what happened to their son. They spoke from Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, the church where the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. served as pastor. A rally also took place on the steps of the Georgia State Capitol on Wednesday.
“We are not making any accusations, we are not making any recriminations. We are calling for an investigation,” said Jacquelyn Johnson, mother of Kendrick Johnson.
In January, Kendrick Johnson, 17, was found dead inside of a gym mat at Lowndes County High School in Valdosta, Ga. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation said Johnson suffocated himself while trying to get a sneaker. While authorities said the death was an accident and closed the case, the family believes otherwise.
“The reputation of our state is on the line, and we cannot allow Georgia to have a moral and ethical black eye,” said Raphael Warnock, senior pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church in one report. “Our message at that rally and our message that afternoon is simple and very clear: The lives of all of our children matter.”
The family has enlisted the help of attorney Benjamin Crump, best known as the attorney for the family of Trayvon Martin. Surveillance tape has been added to the evidence in the case. Johnson’s body was exhumed; his body cavity was stuffed with newspaper and his organs were removed before his burial for unexplained reasons. His body was reportedly found headfirst in the gym mat.
“There are so many questions yet unanswered,” Crump said during a televised interview last month. “As we’ve said before, this is a real-life murder mystery, and there just seems to be more and more adding to the mystery.”
The family has not been satisfied with the Lowndes County sheriff’s office’s investigation on the case; the office ruled the death as accidental. However, video surveillance reveals there were other people in the gym when Johnson died. After hiring their own investigator, the family believes he was murdered.
U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Georgia Michael Moore is reviewing all the evidence, and he has vowed to press criminal or civil right charges if anything comes up.