Unnamed sources told the media that the FBI could soon seize original hard drives from the surveillance system at Lowndes High School, where Kendrick Johnson, 17, was found dead in a gym mat. U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Georgia Michael Moore may have issued a grand jury subpoena to view the hard drives.
Recently, surveillance video from the school was released to the media, but four cameras inside the gymnasium only caught a glimpse of Johnson, as did cameras outside the gym. The camera closest to the mats was not in proper working order. The Johnson family’s attorneys stated to the media that they are suspicious of possible tampering. Attorney Chevene King has questioned why time codes aren’t on the videos.
“We don’t have any time code with which to synchronize the events that are shown in the video…Either the cameras did this on their own or a human being interacted to make these cameras do these things,” King said.
Lowndes County schools have insisted that the family and the media were given the “raw feed with no edits” and the county sheriff’s office has corroborated that. The police said they did not edit any files before their public release, according to their lawyers.
CNN along with the family filed a lawsuit to secure public release of the video. CNN hired Grant Fredericks, U.S. Justice Department video analyst and instructor for the FBI. His company, Forensic Video Solutions combed through all 290 plus hours of video from 60 plus cameras. Fredricks told CNN that most of the Johnsons’ concerns with video quality and tampering are easily explained. But, Fredericks told CNN that, according to his analysis, there is at least one hour missing from the cameras inside the gym.
While Fredericks said it was “highly suspicious”, he admitted that if the video was not promptly downloaded, it may have been written over by new surveillance hours automatically. Authorities have said they didn’t receive a copy of the videos until several days after Johnson’s body was found.
Fredericks additionally, disagreed with the way the police department went about securing the video footage for investigation. He said that the video files are not the originals and that “the investigator’s responsibility is to acquire the entire digital video recording system and have their staff define what they want to obtain.” Instead, according to a police report, the authorities asked an IT employee of the school to produce a “copy of the surveillance video for the entire wing of the school with the old gym for the last 48 hours.” Five days later, the IT employee delivered a hard drive with the contents requested.
“Right now, what they’ve done, is they’ve left it up to the school district as to what it is they want to provide to the police, and I think that probably is a mistake,” Fredericks said.