After the family of Kendrick Johnson, a Georgia teen found dead inside his high school’s gym, filed a legal action, which media organizations joined, to release the surveillance videos of the gym area before his death, a judge ruled in their favor. Under the order of a Valdosta Superior Court judge, the Lowndes County sheriff’s office released hundreds of clips of surveillance video to the Johnson’s attorneys and members of the media. There are more than 30 cameras in the area of the gym at Lowndes High School in Valdosta, Georgia. Johnson’s family suspects their 17-year-old son was murdered.
Some of the clips appear blurry and the video doesn’t seem to depict Johnson’s death, this has given rise to accusations by the family that the videos have been altered. An attorney for the sheriff Chris Pine said the video was not altered or edited in anyway by police before its release. An attorney for the school said that the school provided the raw feed, without editing, to the police department. Clips clearly show Johnson in and around the gym area.
“There are so many questions yet unanswered. As we’ve said before, this is a real-life murder mystery and there just seems to be more and more adding to the mystery,” Benjamin Crump, a family attorney, told CNN, “His parents have always said, all they want to know is the truth…we’re going to keep pressing to get the truth to this murder mystery.”
Before the videos release, there was widespread speculation on whether it would show Johnson trying to retrieve his shoes and accidentally falling in, like the police say, or would it show someone murdering him, like his parents say? In all 266GB of video, none show anything about his death, but they do show what happened before and after his death.
Johnson is seen walking down the hallway to the gym. He walks through the basketball court. And that’s pretty much all, until after his death when another clip shows the discovery of his body. Only one of the cameras shows the rolled up mat area in the corner of the gym. The images are blurry according to a sheriff’s investigator because a ball had previously struck it and it was not fixed. The angle of the video doesn’t show the tops of the mats. Some of the cameras are motion activated and Johnson didn’t activate them because he wasn’t close enough to the sensors.
On the morning of January 11th, students discovered Johnson’s body in a gym mat. After a four-month investigation, state officials ruled Johnson’s death as accidental caused by positional asphyxia when he went to get his shoes from inside the mat. Reportedly, the throwing of shoes into mats was something common at the school. Last week, U.S. Attorney Michael Moore said he would be investigating the case, but warned that his jurisdiction is legally limited and he would make recommendations as he sees fit for criminal or civil rights charges, if any.