VALDOSTA, Ga. — U.S. Attorney Michael Moore announced Thursday he will investigate the disputed death of Kendrick Johnson, the 17-year-old student found dead in a rolled up wrestling mat at Lowndes County High School 10 months ago.
Moore said he’s already reviewed the local sheriff’s investigation of the death as well as documents provided by the teen’s family and has determined “sufficient basis exists” for a formal federal inquiry.
“I do this with an open mind, neither accepting nor rejecting the opinions of anyone who has previously investigated the circumstances of Mr. Johnson’s death,” Moore said in a statement.
“My objective,” the statement added, “is to discover the truth, and I believe that can only be done by gathering all of the relevant information surrounding Mr. Johnson’s death.”
Johnson’s body was found by students Jan. 11 in the high school gym, wedged upside down between the folds of an upright wrestling mat. Blood was found on the floor of the gym below his head.
An autopsy conducted by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation concluded that the youth died of “positional asphyxia” when he became trapped upside down in the mat and could not get out. The county sheriff’s office ruled the death accidental and closed the case.
The teen’s parents, however, said they suspect he was murdered and the victim of a coverup by law enforcement authorities.