VALDOSTA – Two years before federal investigators ended their review of the Kendrick Johnson case, the Federal Bureau of Investigation concluded that two “persons of interest” were not near the high school student when he was last seen, according to a 2014 FBI video analysis made public this week.
The unclassified but redacted report obtained by ValdostaToday.com is dated Sept. 9, 2014 and contains the FBI’s analysis of Lowndes High School hard drives containing surveillance footage from Jan. 10 and Jan. 11, 2013, including footage that has not been made available to the public.
Analysis of the hard drives was conducted at the FBI Headquarters in Quantico, Va., between July 21 and July 24, 2014, documents stated.
Johnson’s parents have insisted their son was the victim of foul play ever since his body was found upside down in a vertically stored gym mat at Lowndes High School on January 10, 2013.
A state autopsy ruled Johnson’s death accidental, and a federal review of the case ended in 2016 when the Department of Justice announced it had not found “sufficient evidence to support federal criminal charges.”
The Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office determined Johnson died from positional asphyxia after he became stuck, squeezing himself into a rolled up gym mat while reaching down into the mat to retrieve a shoe.
The Johnsons have rejected that conclusion and have made repeated claims their son was murdered by classmates and the incident was covered up by numerous local and state officials.
The FBI analysis report released this week focused on two “persons of interest” whose identities were redacted.
The analysis concluded “the victim (Kendrick Johnson) and both persons of interest were in different areas of the LHS campus during the time in question” and the two persons of interest “were not in the general vicinity of the old gym where Johnson was last seen,” the report stated.
Other FBI conclusions:
- Johnson had entered the ‘old gym’ area en route to his fourth block class, for which he never arrived
- The last recorded image of Johnson is when he is seen entering the old gym and running diagonally across the gym floor at 1:27 p.m.
- One person of interest was located walking along the exterior of the school towards D-Wing at 1:28 p.m.
- The other person of interest was located in the parking lot headed towards J-Wing at 1:28 p.m.
- Johnson and the two persons of interest were travelling in opposite directions towards their respective fourth block classes and likely did not cross paths
The surveillance video analysis is the first publicly available document released from the federal investigation of Johnson’s death initiated by former U.S. Attorney Michael Moore in October 2013.
The report identifies the case as an investigation into racial discrimination by force and/or violence. However, the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice declined to investigate the case days before Moore announced his review.
The analysis also concluded discrepancies in video footage time stamps were caused by a combination of issues, including video servers not being centrally located, not being connected to each other and not being manually reset after maintenance. The report also attributed blurry footage and time stamp discrepancies to the age of the systems.
The report did not mention any concerns about the possibility of missing footage or if the video had been tampered with or altered.