(VALDOSTA, Ga.) — The parents of a Georgia teen found dead inside a rolled-up gym mat are hoping the release of surveillance video from inside the high school will help them understand what happened to their son.
A judge on Wednesday ordered that the recordings be released. The parents of Kendrick Johnson, 17, are urging that a new investigation be launched because they believe foul play was involved.
Johnson’s death inside Lowndes High School in Valdosta, Ga., in January was ruled an accident by both the original coroner’s report and a state police investigation. Authorities in Georgia said that Johnson had gotten stuck inside the wrestling mat while reaching in to retrieve a shoe. His body was found the next day. The medical examiner’s report concluded he died from positional asphyxia.
Johnson’s family never believed the initial investigation and feels the release of the surveillance video is one small step toward proving his death was no accident.
“It’s still a long battle and we still have a long way to go but this is a start,” Johnson’s father, Kenneth, told ABC News.
Footage from the high school’s security camera showed Johnson walking into the gym where other students were playing basketball.
The judge also ordered the school’s entire case file about the incident to be released, including the names of the minors playing basketball and any others who were in or near the gym.
“It feels great we are just one step closer to finding out what happened to my son,” Johnson’s mother, Jacquelyn, said.
A U.S. attorney watching the case is expected to comment on Thursday. School officials insisted there was no foul play and that Johnson’s death was a tragic accident.
In May, the Johnsons received permission to exhume their son’s body and hired their own private medical examiner, Dr. William R. Anderson, to conduct a second autopsy.
Anderson’s four-page autopsy report, released in August, shows that Johnson died from a blow to the right side of his neck that appeared to be “non-accidental.”
The Johnson family’s attorney sent the autopsy’s findings to the U.S. attorney for Georgia’s middle district, the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department as well as local authorities.
State investigators told the Johnsons at the time that they stand by their investigation and would not reopen the case.
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