A petition demanding the reopening of the investigation of the death of Kendrick Johnson has garnered more than 1 million subscriptions.
In January 2013, the 17-year-old’s body was found in a rolled-up gym mat at Lowndes High School in Valdosta, Georgia, a day after he failed to come home from school. A Lowndes County coroner ruled Johnson’s death was accidental, but his family has always suspected he was murdered after an argument with a schoolmate. His body was exhumed two more times for additional examination. The final autopsy determined Johnson succumbed to non-accidental blunt force trauma to his right neck and thorax.
High-profile deaths like George Floyd and Breonna Taylor have reignited interest in the preservation of Black lives from the hands of perpetrators of power. Johnson’s death has reentered the nation’s narrative thanks to a Change.org petition demanding the reopening of his case. The petition was started five months ago, but it went viral this week.
The petition has been signed more than 1.3 million times as of this writing. Kim Kardashian posted the link on her Twitter page and encouraged her followers to sign it.
The attention heartened Johnson’s parents, who are still fighting for justice.
“I thank them very much for seeing that there is injustice in my son’s case. Some came out and I have some more coming out to help push my son’s case. I really appreciate the help they have given us,” Kenneth Johnson, his father, told WALB.
“I stand flat-footed on what I say, we demand justice and enough is enough,” said Jackie Johnson, Kendrick Johnson’s mother.
The death was also discussed on social media, some opting to use the hashtag #J4Kendrick.
Despite the attention, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation announced Kendrick Johnson’s case will remain closed.
“The GBI has received numerous inquiries from the public about our involvement in the 2013 Kendrick Johnson death investigation. This case was investigated by the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office, the FBI, and the Department of Justice,” the bureau tweeted.
The statement continued, “Our agency assisted the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office in the case by processing the scene. Our Medical Examiner’s Office conducted an autopsy on Johnson. This investigation is closed. All GBI documents pertaining to the case are available upon request through GBI’s Open Records Unit.”
Atlanta Black Star has submitted an open records request and awaits the results.