There were four cameras installed inside Lowndes County High School’s gym when Georgia teen Kendrick Johnson walked inside this January.
According to family members, none of these cameras explain how or why the 17-year-old’s body was found rolled up inside a wrestling mat the next day.
In fact, a CNN video expert said he was “highly suspicious” of the surveillance footage that the school district handed over.
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Kendrick Johnson was a 17-year-old student at Lowndes County High School. He died on January 10 in the school’s gym.
CNN obtained 290 hours of footage from 35 cameras stationed around the gym after filing suit. After forensic video analyst Grant Fredericks poured through the video, he told CNN that the files had been “altered in a number of ways” and that he was “missing information.”
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The Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office is insisting that they did not change the videos and that the teen’s death was an accident. They claim Johnson died when he was reaching for a shoe that had fallen into one of the mats.
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Photos from the scene of the death of 17-year-old Kendrick Johnson.
But Fredericks disagrees.
“Those files are not original files,” said Fredericks, who has worked as a consultant for the U.S. Justice Department and as a contract instructor for the FBI’s National Academy. “They’re not something investigators should rely on for the truth of the video.”
The Johnson family had raised concerns that the videos didn’t have any timestamps. The footage is reportedly jumpy and blurred.
New surveillance footage of Johnson’s death has been deemed ‘highly suspicious’ by a CNN video expert.
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“Either the cameras did this on their own or a human being interacted to make these cameras do these things,” said the Johnsons’ attorney Chevene King.
However, Fredericks said that these irregularities could easily be explained. The gym had motion-triggered cameras, which is why the students in the footage would erratically disappear and reappear. The blurry splotches could be explained by an out-of-focus lens. And Fredericks was able to find a time stamp.
Kendrick Johnson was last seen entering his high school gym at 1:09 p.m.
What really concerned Fredericks was that some of the video seems to be missing.
In total, Fredericks said that Johnson showed up in about 18 minutes of the footage. The teen walked into school at 7:31 a.m. He was last seen at 1:09 p.m., entering the gym.
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The Johnsons have been trying to discover the truth about their son’s death.
One pair of cameras was missing about an hour and five minutes of footage. They started up again at 1:09 p.m., after Johnson walked into the gym. There was another gap in two more cameras—both missing about two hours and 10 minutes each. These cameras resume recording at 1:15 p.m. and 1:16 p.m.
“I can’t tell you whether there was no information recorded in the digital video system or whether somebody made an error and didn’t capture it or whether somebody just didn’t provide it,” Fredericks said.
Lowndes County police said that it took them several days after Johnson’s death to obtain the footage. A detective saw the video the day that the teen was found. He asked the school’s information technology officer to make a copy. It was delivered five days later.
“Right now, what they’ve done, is they’ve left it up to the school district as to what it is they want to provide to the police, and I think that probably is a mistake,” Fredericks said. “You don’t want somebody who might be party to the responsibility to make the decision as to what they provide the police.”
The sheriff’s office is maintaining that the case is closed. But Johnson’s family hasn’t given up the fight.
“We are Kendrick Johnson,” his mother, Jacquelyn Johnson, said. “That’s my child, and we’re going to fight until it’s all over, until we get the truth. That’s all we’ve ever asked for — was the truth about what happened to Kendrick Johnson.”