Valdosta Daily Times

Kendrick Johnson

April 21, 2013

Protesters demand justice for deceased LHS student

VALDOSTA — With shouts of “No justice, no peace,” and “Honk your horns for KJ,” demonstrators took to Downtown Valdosta Saturday afternoon, continuing what has been two weeks of protests, rallies, demonstrations and vigils for deceased Lowndes High student Kendrick “KJ” Johnson.

The first demonstration two weeks ago was held by just a handful of people, but Saturday saw hundreds of Valdostans turning out.

“The community response has been very good,” said Kenneth Johnson, Kendrick’s father. “It’s the response we expected. Everyone knows that this wasn’t an accident. ... We’ve had a lot of strangers, complete strangers come out to support us. At this point, everyone becomes family.”

In January, Kendrick Johnson, 17, was found dead in the old Lowndes High gymnasium on the school campus. Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office proclaimed no foul play in the case on the same day as the teen’s body was discovered. Authorities believe Johnson was alone in the gym, reached for a loose shoe and fell into a rolled-up wrestling-type mat, became trapped, and died from being upside down for an extended period of time. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation assisted in the investigation.

The family does not agree with the sheriff’s office finding and believes Kendrick was killed. Family and friends believe the photo of Kendrick’s face after death supports their claim. The official autopsy has not yet been completed.

On Saturday, protesters took up posts at downtown street corners, centered around the courthouse. They held signs and encouraged drivers to honk their horns in support. With a grill set up and soft drinks being handed out, the demonstration sometimes had the atmosphere of a relaxed community gathering, albeit one with a somber purpose.

One of the people out protesting was Frances Matchett.

“I’m out here because I don’t know what happened to KJ,” said Frances Matchett. “Being a parent, you don’t want to see this happen to your child. ... I don’t think I could do what Kendrick’s mother is doing. She’s not being allowed to grieve. She’s still trying to figure out what happened to her child.”

Gwendolyn Nelson was also downtown Saturday afternoon as a parent.

“Everyone always thinks these things happen to other people, but I feel it could have happened to anybody’s child,” said Nelson. “This isn’t a Valdosta, Lowndes thing, a white, black, Asian, caucasian thing. This is an everybody thing.”

“One person can’t do it alone. We need the community,” said Matchett. “If there is something wrong, we need the powers that be to investigate.”

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Kendrick Johnson
  • KJ’s parents claim racial bullying in lawsuit

    The parents of Kendrick Johnson have sued the Lowndes County School System, claiming officials neglected to protect their son from racial harassment and bullying that they said led to his death.

    May 15, 2014

  • Anonymous email in KJ case based on rumor, says author

    The teenage girl who authored an anonymous email claiming someone had confessed to murdering Kendrick Johnson says it was strictly a rumor that she felt conscience-bound to share with the sheriff’s office.

    March 27, 2014

  • keyboard.jpg Authorities: Confession in KJ case not credible

    An anonymous email claiming a former classmate of Kendrick Johnson had confessed to killing him was investigated and determined not to be credible, the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office said Thursday.

    March 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • social.jpg Mom says sons harassed, threatened in KJ case

    Karen Bell has had it with the rumor-mongering about her family’s connection to the death of Kendrick Johnson on social networking sites like YouTube,  Twitter and Facebook.

    February 9, 2014 1 Photo

  • Johnsons file civil suit against funeral home

    Kendrick Johnson’s parents have filed a civil lawsuit against the Harrington Funeral Home, claiming it negligently handled their son’s remains and deliberately withheld information about the condition of his body.

    February 6, 2014

  • 140121-Floyd_Rose001.jpg No response to KJ reward

    A local civil rights leader returned reward money to its donor Tuesday after it failed to yield any significant information pertaining to the death of Kendrick Johnson.

    January 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • State capitol rally today for new KJ probe

    A three-hour rally for a new investigation into the disputed death of Lowndes High student Kendrick Johnson 11 months ago is planned today on the front steps of the Georgia Capitol building.

    December 11, 2013

  • Kendrick_Johnson.jpg Where was Kendrick?

    About this series
    This is the third of four stories by the Valdosta Daily Times reviewing the official police file on the investigation into the death of Kendrick Johnson. Today’s report is about the confusion surrounding Kendrick’s whereabouts the day before his body was found, explains police handling of a report that a person was attacked and falsely accused of killing Kendrick, and tells about the dissatisfaction of Lowndes County Coroner Bill Watson with how authorities handled the immediate investigation.

    November 23, 2013 1 Photo 2 Stories

  • kendrick-johnson.jpg Finding Kendrick

    The Times continues its in-depth look at the investigative case file into the January death of Kendrick Johnson at Lowndes High School.

    November 22, 2013 1 Photo

  • kendrick-johnson.jpg Kendrick’s Final Walk

    A review of Lowndes High School video footage shows more than the moments Kendrick Johnson entered the old gymnasium where his body was discovered Jan. 11 in a rolled wrestling mat.

    November 21, 2013 1 Photo

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