Kendrick Johnson, 17, suffocated in gym mat, officials say
Surveillance footage captured Kendrick in the gym
A CNN open records request asked if others were present in surveillance footage
School attorney acknowledges footage shows others in the gym
Surveillance footage shows other minors inside a Georgia high school gym at about the same time authorities say Kendrick Johnson suffocated in a rolled-up mat while reaching for a sneaker, an attorney for the school told CNN on Friday.
The attorney’s acknowledgement came in a response to a CNN open records request asking whether other minors were recorded in the footage inside the Lowndes County High School gym on January 10 between 1:09 p.m. and 1:20 p.m., a span of about 10 minutes after Johnson entered the gym.
“I answer your pointed question with ‘yes,’” L. Warren Turner Jr.. the attorney, wrote in the letter.
CNN made the request after the school declined to release certain surveillance photos or video, citing state law that exempts the release of “education records of a minor child.”
It’s the latest revelation in a case that has seen Kendrick’s parents challenge the account of authorities and demanded an inquest into the teen’s death. Attorneys for Kendrick’s family have called for the release of the surveillance video.
Johnson, 17, was found dead at the gym in Valdosta on January 11, his body resting headfirst in the rolled wrestling mat, according to authorities.
A few still pictures, taken from surveillance cameras at the gym, are perhaps the last known images of Kendrick alive. They show him walking across the bare floor. Those images were released by the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office.
The next pictures of the teenager are far more horrifying: His body, clad in jeans and layered orange and white T-shirts, is wedged in the wrestling mat. His face is bloated with pooled blood, some of which poured out of his body and soaked his dreadlocks and spilled onto the floor.
A pair of orange-and-black gym shoes were found a few yards from the teen’s body.
A Georgia Bureau of Investigation autopsy found that he died from positional asphyxia, and the sheriff’s office determined the death was accidental.
The sheriff has declared the case closed, and the U.S. Justice Department said in September that it wouldn’t open a civil rights investigation. But Michael Moore, the U.S. attorney for the district that includes Valdosta, is reviewing the case and weighing whether to open his own investigation.
Dr. Bill Anderson, the private pathologist hired by Johnson’s family to conduct a second autopsy, found that Johnson had a blow to right side of his neck “consistent with inflicted injury.”
A January 25 report by the Valdosta-Lowndes County Regional Crime Laboratory cited “no signs of blunt force trauma on Johnson’s face or body.” And the original autopsy results released by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation May 2 identified “no significant injuries.”
CNN’s Greg Botelho and Devon Sayers contributed to this report.