On January 11, 2013, the body of 17-year-old Kendrick Johnson was discovered rolled up in a wrestling mat in his high school’s gym. Today (June 20), U.S. Department of Justice officials say there will be no federal criminal charges in his death.
Lowndes County investigators ruled his death accidental, saying he suffocated after he fell headfirst into the mat at Lowndes High School while attempting to reclaim his shoe and was trapped. Johnson’s family called for a federal investigation after an independent autopsy revealed that the teen had likely suffered “non-accidental” blunt force trauma to the neck and that—following the initial autopsy and exhumation—his organs were missing and his body had been filled with newspaper. His parents maintain that a White classmate who had a grudge against Johnson killed him, and that the case was intentionally mishandled because their son was Black.
Per local station WXIA, the Justice Department issued a statement, which includes the following:
After extensive investigation into this tragic event, federal investigators determined that there is insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that someone or some group of people willfully violated Kendrick Johnson’s civil rights or committed any other prosecutable federal crime. Accordingly, the investigation into this incident has been closed without the filing of federal criminal charges.
Federal investigators say they interviewed nearly 100 people, read thousands of emails and texts, and viewed all available surveillance video before the department decided not to bring charges.
The family previously filed and dropped at wrongful death suit, but reportedly plans to re-file it now that the federal investigation has been completed.