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Family of teen found dead in a rolled-up gym mat requesting federal death investigation be reopened

Kendrick Johnson's body was found in Lowndes County High School in 2013.

ATLANTA — On what would have been his 24th birthday, the family of Kendrick Johnson requested that the federal investigation into his mysterious death be reopened.

Johnson's body was found in 2013 in a rolled-up gym mat at Lowndes County High School. Lowndes County is located near the Georgia-Florida border, about 200 miles south of Atlanta. 

Investigators ruled Johnson died of accidental asphyxiation when he got stuck in the mat while trying to retrieve a shoe. Johnson’s family believes he was murdered by schoolmates.

"Some reasons why we’re calling for the reopening on the federal level is because of the unethical behavior to put it lightly on behalf of the federal government," said Marcus Coleman, founder of Save OurSelves, and representative for the family.

In the Friday announcement, the family disclosed important details related to the closing of the investigation in 2016, as well as present new information regarding missing organs belonging to Johnson.

"These details, we believe, deserve at bare minimum, a redo of the meeting discussing the findings of the aforementioned closed investigation," a statement from the family said.

"Since the closing of the investigation, the Johnson family has exhumed their child’s remains yet again an performed a third autopsy. The third autopsy confirms the second which conflicts the first. The first stated positional asphyxia, the second autopsy stated blunt force trauma and since now the third autopsy stated blunt force trauma," Coleman said.

Johnson family representatives contend that the 2016 meeting with the federal government to present the findings of the case was carried out without legal representation from the family. 

"The actions of the Federal Government concerning aforementioned meeting were unethical, and we believe the investigation was closed under suspicious circumstances fueled by pressure of retired FBI agents," claims Coleman. He went on to say in Friday's press conference, “Mr. and Mrs. Johnson were persuaded to meet with the two U.S. Attorney offices and again the department of justice without legal representation. We would like the Trump administration to review the findings of that investigation.”

Coleman said the family agrees with the Trump administration's recent comments regarding the FBI and the Department of Justice. 

"The FBI and Department of Justice and other branches of government definitely have corruption running through them," Coleman stated Friday. 

He went on to say they are reopening the state investigation because "we can't act like this young man's organs went missing legally." 

Johnson's family recently refiled a lawsuit connected to his death back on May 21, 2019 after being told by a judge that too much time had passed in their original lawsuit. They dismissed the previous suit just one day beforehand.

The teen's parents contend that their son's clothes and organs, including his brain, were disposed of to interfere with a law enforcement investigation into the teen's death. 

"We're now able to accurately state that after the first autopsy that took place in the GBI lab that the organs were placed in a bag and placed back into Kendrick's body leaving the GBI lab," Coleman said. He went on to say that more people are finding their loved ones dead without their organs and it's a human rights issue. 

He said more details will be given at a later date, but that the state owes it to this family to determine what happened to the organs of Kendrick Johnson. 

RELATED: Protesters urge justice for Kendrick Johnson at Lowndes graduation

WALB reported that because the suit was dismissed without prejudice, the door remained open for the suit to be refiled.


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