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Kendrick Johnson was a 17 year old student and basketball player at Lowndes High School in Valdosta, Georgia. He was found in his high school gym deceased inside a rolled up gym mat. Was it an accident or a coverup?
On January 10, 2013 Kendrick Johnson attended his classes at Lowndes High School in Valdosta, Georgia. The last time he would be seen alive is on school surveillance video walking into the gym at 1:09 p.m. You can see the video below. The next day his body was found inside of a vertical rolled up gym mat by other students who noticed socks sticking out of the top of one of the mats.
Kendrick was found head down in the mat without his shoes on. Many students said that Kendrick was known to store his shoed inside the rolled up mats. He and another student shared a pair of shoes that they stored inside the mats. He was not the only student to do so as it was a way to avoid locker fees. Mats had been added to the area that they were stored in that pushed the mat that they stored the shoes in towards the back when it was usually in the front.
An initial autopsy was performed by The Georgia Bureau of Investigation deemed the death as accidental caused by positional asphyxia. It was suspected that as he reached inside the mat to obtain the shoes he fell in and was unable to get out.
Kendrick Johnson Age 17
Surveillance video released by the school shows the last known moments of Kendrick Johnson as he walks into the gym on January 11, 2013. Nobody entered after him for 3 minutes.
Lowndes High School had 2 gyms, one had areas that were used as permeant storage for equipment. In the corner were these gym mats which were stored there. Its been reported that additional gym mats had been added to the area and that the shoes Kendrick was reaching were now in mat that had been pushed to the back. He was found with the mat sitting in an upright position. The people on the scene put the mat on its side in an attempt get Kendrick out, however, when the realized his condition they stopped trying to pull the body out until law enforcement could arrive. It was clear Kendrick was deceased.
Kendrick was found head down inside one of the gym mats. His shoes were not on his feet. There is controversy over if the shoes seen here were placed in the mat after Kendrick was inside it or if he kicked them off his feet as he struggled to get out.
There was other blood evidence in the gym. Some dried blood on the wall was looked at and determined it was unrelated to the scene. There were items in the gym such as Kendrick's sweatshirt that were not collected and has cause suspicion around the investigation.
There were some potential suspects in two classmates of Kendrick's, a set of brothers that Kendrick had previous conflict with in the past. The suspects, the Bell brothers, their father was employed by the FBI creating additional speculation of a cover up of the death of Kendrick Johnson.
Was he placed in the mat? Or did he accidently fall in and suffocate as the investigation determined?
This is one of the shoes that investigators claim Kendrick was reaching for. It should be noted that there is a substance around and underneath the shoe, but there is no not much on the shoe itself. The substance was not collected or tested. The other shoe was found inside the mat under Kendrick's head.
This hoodie located in the gym was also not collected or tested. It is believed online to be Kendrick's, but that has not been confirmed by investigators.
The Bell brothers, Brian and Brandon, were classmates of Kendrick's. They had prior conflict with him in the past and it was reported that Kendrick's mother had in the past spoke to the school about Brandon Bell had bullied Kendrick. This make them suspects in the eyes of Kendrick's parents. Rick Bell, the boys, father works as an FBI agent and this makes the family believe there could be a cover up.
Both Brandon and Brian Bell have alibis that day. One was in class on the other side of the school when its is believed that Kendrick died in the mat. The other was attending a wrestling meet in another town. Its been reported the bus to that meet left on January 10, at 12:30. Kendrick was seen on surveillance video entering the gym at 1:00 pm.
In March of 2021 Authorities announced they would be reopening the case of Kendrick Johnson. It was spurred by a audio that the family purchased in their search for justice for Kendrick. On the audio is a confession in Kendrick's death.
It is unknown if the audio is authentic, or staged, or if someone was taking advantage of this family's situation.
We await word on the analysis of the tape and what it consists of.