UPDATED: Video released in teens death; expert finds it ‘highly suspicious’
Missing time codes. Gaps. And a mysteriously blurry and out-of-position camera that should have been pointed right at the spot where authorities found the body of Georgia teenager Kendrick Johnson some 10 months ago.
These are the things the attorneys for Kendrick’s family say they found when they reviewed surveillance images provided by authorities after a judge ruled they must be released.
For instance, in one image, a man seen walking away from the gym in what appears to be an image captured late at night suddenly disappears from a series of images shot by a motion-activated camera. Other images shot at other times capture people walking in that same location, attorney Chevene King said.
In another example, King showed reporters images from a camera that he said should have shown the place where authorities say Kendrick fell into a gym mat and suffocated while trying to retrieve a sneaker. The image was blurry and out of position, he said.
While stopping short of directly accusing authorities of deliberately tampering with the evidence, King said problems with the surveillance are only the latest in a series of oddities that have drawn national attention to Kendrick’s death. His bloody body was found rolled up in a gym mat at Lowndes High School on January 11.
A state medical examiner ruled his death accidental, despite evidence of a neck injury found in a second autopsy conducted by a pathologist hired by the family. His fingernails had been clipped, his clothes were missing and his organs had been removed and replace by newspaper.
“We have had what I think is a series of events that causes you to raise the question, when does a coincidence stop being a coincidence,” King told reporters Wednesday in Valdosta, Georgia.
King demanded that authorities hand over originals of the surveillance video showing time codes and other evidence that he said could show whether the materials had been tampered with.
Jim Elliott, an attorney for Lowndes County Sheriff Chris Prine, said that his client has confirmed the video had not been altered or edited by anyone within the sheriff’s office. An attorney for the school likewise said that what was provided to the sheriff’s office was the raw feed with no edits.
Kendrick’s father, Kenneth Johnson, angrily demanded justice, calling authorities corrupt and vowing the family will not stop until they get answers to what happened to his son.
“The Lowndes County Sheriff’s Department, the D.A.’s office, they convict people all the time inside this courthouse,” he said. “Should they not be held responsible for the lies they are telling and for the corruption?”
The U.S. attorney’s office in Macon, Georgia, opened an investigation into the case last week.
While warning his jurisdiction is limited as a federal prosecutor, Michael Moore, the U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Georgia, said that after a lengthy review of evidence collected by authorities and the family’s own investigator, “sufficient basis exists” to warrant a formal review of the facts.
A Georgia judge on Thursday ruled that pending the outcome of that review, he will decide whether to order a coroner’s inquest. Johnson’s parents had asked for the inquest.
Valdosta, Georgia- The death of 17-year-old Kendrick Johnson was awful enough for his parents. Then came the doubts about investigators’ conclusion that it was an accident.
But the discovery that their son’s body and skull had been stuffed with newspaper before burial added a horrific new dimension to their anguish and further fueled their skepticism of the official findings.
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