The outrageous tragedy of Kendrick Johnson may finally get a hearing in court, as his parents filed a $100 million lawsuit against 38 people—including local, state and federal law enforcement officials and three classmates—in the wake of Johnson’s death at Lowndes High School in Valdosta two years ago when the 17-year-old was found upside down in a rolled-up gym mat.
The civil suit was filed this week in Superior Court in metro Atlanta’s DeKalb County. Johnson’s parents, Kenneth and Jacquelyn Jackson, pulled so many people into the suit because they believe all those people were involved in a massive conspiracy to cover up the death of their son.
“Defendants from the various law enforcement agencies deliberately and maliciously mishandled the subject investigation in such a way that anyone who might ever be charged with Kendrick’s death would never be convicted,” the lawsuit says.
In response to the suit, Lowndes County Attorney Jim Elliot said the allegations were “unfounded” and they would adddress the “baseless accusations” in court.
Out of all the cases of Black youth being killed in the last couple of years, Johnson’s is one of the most confounding and frustrating. Though it’s been almost exactly two years since his body was found on Jan. 11, 2013, new pieces of evidence keep appearing to cast doubt on the official story that he somehow fell head first into an upright mat and becoming trapped.
The family insisted that Johnson’s death was no accident and an independent autopsy report backed those beliefs.
From the beginning, the events leading up to the discovery of the dead teen made media headlines after key security footage was nowhere to be found and the official explanation for the teen’s death just didn’t add up.
When the family requested an autopsy by an independent pathologist, they expected that they would discover a cause of death other than “positional asphyxia” but they didn’t expect to discover newspaper in the place of Johnson’s organs.
According to Dr. William R. Anderson, who conducted the second autopsy, most of Johnson’s internal organs were missing and the body cavity had been filled with newspaper instead.
A spokeswoman for the GBI said that it is the agency’s policy to return all organs to the body after autopsies and that’s what they did with Johnson.
Despite their claims, nobody has been able to offer an explanation as to where Johnson’s organs are and why his body had been stuffed with newspaper.
Suspicions that the funeral home had something to do with it were dispelled after it was revealed that newspapers weren’t even the standard materials for filling body cavities for funerals.
Most funeral homes use sawdust or cotton or other more absorbent materials.
In November, documents that the Johnson family obtained under Georgia’s Open Records Act revealed that there is yet another discrepancy in the explanation of their son’s death.
Initially, it was believed that Johnson was left behind by his wrestling teammates who took off for the state tournament 90 minutes before Johnson was spotted still alive on school surveillance video.
That seemed to eliminate any possibility of any of his teammates being involved in his death.
According to the bus log, however, the team was actually still on the high school’s campus for quite some time and could have still been there when Johnson somehow ended up inside the gym mat.
Instead of leaving at 11 a.m. like initial reports claimed, the bus didn’t leave until 4 p.m., nearly three hours after Johnson was last seen on the surveillance footage.
Michael Moore, the U.S. attorney for middle Georgia, said in a statement last week that a federal investigation remains open because the case has “proven more complicated” than he expected.
The $100 million suit names an FBI agent whom the suit accuses of ordering his two sons to attack Kendrick along with a classmate and two other unnamed people. The agent has since sued Ebony magazine for libel and slander after articles were published that he claims falsely associated him and his sons with Kendrick’s death.
The articles have since been removed from Ebony’s website.
Other respondents include the director of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, five GBI agents, the Valdosta police chief, numerous sheriff’s deputies, the state medical examiner and the Lowndes County school superintendent, the Valdosta-Lowndes crime lab and the City of Valdosta, all of whom the Johnsons accuse of taking part in a conspiracy to cover up what they allege was Kendrick’s murder.
Because all of the local Superior Court judges have recused themselves, the lawsuit couldn’t be brought in Lowndes County.