Kendrick Johnson wrongful death lawsuit takes odd turn

Kendrick-Johnson crop
Kendrick Johnson- (Photo Credit: Justice for KJ)

The tragic death of Valdosta High School student Kendrick Johnson made national news over in 2013. The Black teen was found dead in a rolled up gym mat at Lowndes High School where he attended. The circumstances surrounding his death and pictures of his body post-mortem caused outrage and allegations of a cover-up that included an FBI agent and his sons and local law enforcement. The family eventually filed a wrongful death lawsuit seeking $100 million in damages and named GBI, county and school officials as well as Rick Bell and his sons Brian and Braden.

The Bell brothers were accused of having some type of involvement in the death of Johnson and have been under investigation by federal and state of Georgia officials. Search warrants and publicity over the case have caused a disruption in the lives of the Bell family and last month their lawyers took action. They argued that there has been no credible evidence that links the Bell brothers to the death of Johnson or a conspiracy. As such, they asked the judge in the case to issue a summary judgment.
The court has not made a decision on that motion, but Kendrick Johnson’s parents, Kenneth Johnson and Jacquelyn Johnson, have now withdrawn their wrongful death lawsuit. Their family spokesperson Marcus Coleman has been quoted in local media as stating, “I do believe the Johnsons will revisit the matter. We did not want the civil matter to be the primary focus.”


There is an open and ongoing federal investigation into the death of Kendrick Johnson that has had serious bumps along the way. This includes judges recusing themselves from the case and the eventual transfer and resignation of former U.S. Attorney Michael Moore. It was Moore who opened a federal probe into the death of Kendrick Johnson but so far no significant evidence or charges have been publicly filed. Moore has held several closed hearings that have seen many Valdosta officials and families giving testimony in the case.

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