Georgia Sheriff Says Death of Black Teen Found in Rolled-Up Gym Mat at His High School Was ‘a Weird Accident’

Demonstrators held a rally in front of the Georgia State Capitol in 2013 and demanded more information about Kendrick Johnson’s death. (Credit…David Goldman/Associated Press)

The death of a Black teenager whose body was found upside-down in a rolled-up gym mat at his Georgia high school in 2013 was an accident, the local sheriff announced this week, affirming a previous investigation’s finding that there was no evidence of foul play.

The teenager, Kendrick Johnson, 17, most likely crawled headfirst into the mat to retrieve a pair of sneakers that he had thrown inside earlier and became trapped, Sheriff Ashley Paulk of Lowndes County said.

“It’s a weird accident,” he said on Thursday, one day after he had released a 16-page report that detailed his findings and echoed the ruling made by a previous sheriff in 2013.

For years, the case has confounded residents in Valdosta, Ga., a city of about 56,000 in southern Georgia. It inspired a 2021 documentary questioning the findings of law enforcement officials and prompted calls for murder charges by Kendrick’s relatives, who believe he was killed by two white students at Lowndes High School.

Federal prosecutors began reviewing the case in 2013 after the family requested a separate investigation.

Click here to read more.

SOURCE: The New York Times, Maria Cramer