It has been two years since the tragic death of Kendrick Johnson, a Black high school athlete in Lowndes County, Georgia. Johnson was found dead in a rolled up wrestling mat with multiple injuries visible on his body. However, his death was ruled accidental due to positional suffocation. This caused outrage and cries of cover-up by not only the family, but members of the Black community who have dealt with racism for decades. Adding to the furor and speculation is that children of prominent officials with government and law enforcement connections are implicated in the ongoing investigation into Johnson’s death.
The circumstances surrounding the death of Johnson are disturbing and graphic. There is video footage of Johnson entering the gym but shortly afterward the cameras mysteriously malfunction at the same time and critical footage is no longer available. It is claimed by officials that Johnson somehow dropped a shoe down an upright wrestling mat and crawled inside the upright mat to retrieve it. Incredulous as it sounds, officials claim Johnson became stuck in the mat and suffocated. However, there was no explanation for the blunt force trauma to Johnson’s body. In addition, the evidence scene was compromised and the sealed body bag was opened by someone. It should be noted that Lowndes County Coroner Bill Watson, who was elected to his position and is not required to be a medical professional, determined that Johnson’s death was accidental and not a homicide. When Johnson’s body was exhumed for a second autopsy, all of his vital organs were missing and the body cavity was stuffed with newspaper. The second autopsy determined that Johnson suffered blunt force trauma.
Because of a pending lawsuit from Johnson’s family against the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Department, all seven judges in Georgia’s Southern Judicial Circuit have recused themselves from presiding over the lawsuit. The lawsuit claims that two brothers — sons of a local FBI agent who attended school with Kendrick — caused Johnson’s death. The suit also suggests that Lowndes County Sheriff Chris Prine conspired with state and local agencies to cover up any wrongdoing.