Valdosta Daily Times

Local News

October 10, 2013

CNN broadcasts video, photos of scene of Kendrick Johnson death

VALDOSTA — In an interview Tuesday with CNN’s Victor Blackwell, a former FBI agent provided his opinion of previously unreleased video and images of the Lowndes High gym where Kendrick Johnson died.

CNN obtained a 15-minute video and almost 700 photos taken by investigators with the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Department to document the scene. The channel shared a few moments of footage from the video and several photos in which Johnson’s body is clearly seen inside a rolled wrestling mat.

Harold Copus, an Atlanta private investigator and former FBI agent, offered his analysis during the segment and said the photos indicated crime scene contamination after photos showed investigators not wearing protective shoe coverings inches from Johnson’s body.

Copus also expressed doubts that blood stains found on a wall near Johnson’s body would have been left there by school cleaning staff. It had been previously been stated by Lt. Stryde Jones with the sheriff’s department that the blood had been on the wall for an extended period of time and did not belong to Johnson, following DNA testing.

Kendrick’s father, Kenneth Johnson, questioned why a shoe that his son was supposedly reaching for when he became lodged in the wrestling mat did not appear to have any blood on it in photos. Photos not shown on air but described by CNN on their website reportedly show blood that had poured out of his body and spilled onto the floor. Copus concluded that some blood should be visible on the shoe if Johnson became stuck while reaching for it.

During the interview, Johnson’s parents maintained that their son’s death was the result of foul play, and Copus agreed.

Federal prosecutors in south Georgia are reviewing the video and photographs to determine whether a separate investigation is necessary, according to CNN.

In January, Kendrick “KJ” 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.

The Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office and Georgia Bureau of Investigation concluded that Johnson was alone in the gym, reached for a loose shoe, became trapped in a rolled-up wrestling-type mat and died from being upside down for an extended period of time.

The state’s autopsy confirmed these findings and concluded the death was accidental.

The Johnson family and many supporters never agreed with the findings and continue rallying outside of the Lowndes County Judicial Complex. They believe, based on the condition of Johnson’s body, that he was the victim of foul play.

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