VALDOSTA – In a partially redacted analysis report containing previously unreleased photographs, the Federal Bureau of Investigation has concluded former Lowndes High student Brian Bell and another student unrelated to Bell were at another part of the campus when Kendrick Johnson was last seen going into the school’s old gym.
The 2014 FBI analysis of school surveillance footage was first made public in February, but the names of two “persons of interest,” who were the subject of the report, were redacted.
Bell’s family subsequently requested a copy of the analysis in which members of their family are identified. They received a report naming Brian Bell as one of the two “persons of interest,” but the second person’s identity remained concealed, suggesting Brian’s older brother, Branden, was not a subject of the analysis.
The partially unredacted report was made public through court filings last week.
Photographs included with the report include adjusted time stamps to make up for discrepancies between the school’s multiple video surveillance systems. The time stamps were offset by FBI analysts to sync the videos to the correct times.
Brian and Branden Bell have been targets of suspicion in Johnson’s death since shortly after 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 and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation 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 Bell brothers were named in a $100 million civil suit filed by Johnson’s parents that was later voluntarily dismissed. The suit accused the Bells and another LHS student, Ryan Hall, of being involved in Kendrick’s death.
The FBI has concluded Brian Bell was “headed towards the D Wing for his fourth block class” at the time Johnson was entering the school’s old gym, according to the report.
At the same time, Branden Bell was on a bus traveling to a wrestling match in Macon, according to investigations conducted by the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office and confirmed by documents and phone records obtained by the Valdosta Daily Times.
The “person of interest” whose identity remains redacted in the FBI video analysis was observed in the LHS parking lot headed towards J-Wing at the time Kendrick is last seen, according to the FBI report.
The unclassified report 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.
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.
- Brian Bell 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