Father Speaks Out at Prayer Vigil for Lowndes High Student

By: Greg Gullberg Email
By: Greg Gullberg Email

Valdosta, GA - Harsh words echoed in the air Wednesday at John Saunders Park in Valdosta. Hundreds came out for a prayer vigil, turned blame game.

The father of a student found dead at Lowndes High School had one message for the Sheriff and administration of Lowndes High.

"You must step down," said Kenneth Johnson to school officials. "My son was in the school's care and they didn't protect my son."

The crowd roared with applause to every statement Johnson made. He then turned his attention to the Sheriff.

"Sheriff Prine, it's time to step down brother. We got way too many kids out there still. You didn't protect my son. You ain't going to protect them either."

17-year-old Kendrick Johnson, better known as K.J., was found dead in the school's gym Friday morning. Kenneth Johnson says his son Kendrick went missing during class Thursday. He says they filed a missing persons report that night before he was found dead the next day.

"There's no way a child can go missing during the day, during school hours with all that traffic in the schools," said Johnson.

The Lowndes Sheriff's Office says there is no reason to believe it was murder. Initial autopsy results found no injuries responsible for Johnson's death. But additional testing will be needed.

Wednesday was the second rally in Johnson's honor. Lowndes School Officials released this statement earlier that day.

"We are supportive of the way our student body has organized to honor their lost friend and fellow classmate. The students have displayed a level of maturity and empathy in supporting the Johnson family that makes us all proud."

Investigators are still waiting on the results of a toxicology report for Johnson which may take another month.

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On Behalf of Superintendent Wes Taylor:

Valdosta, GA - As law enforcement continues to investigate the details leading to the tragic death of one of our students, Kendrick Johnson, the administrators, teachers, and board members of the Lowndes County School System want to again express our sorrow to the family and friends of Kendrick. Kendrick was a sophomore at Lowndes High and had been a student in the Lowndes County Schools since the second grade.

Our grief is elevated because Jacquelyn Johnson, Kendrick’s mother, is a valued employee and friend of the Lowndes County School System. Mrs. Johnson has been a bus driver in our system for 10 years. When she is ready, we and the students on her route look forward to her return.

Additional counselors, social workers, and school psychologists have been made available this past week to help our Lowndes High students and staff deal with this tragic loss.

We are supportive of the way our student body has organized to honor their lost friend and fellow classmate. The students have displayed a level of maturity and empathy in supporting the Johnson family that makes us all proud.

We, as a school family, extend our love, prayers, and support for Kendrick’s family, friends, and fellow students in this time of grief.
We will continue to cooperate with the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Department and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation in their ongoing investigation.


Associated Press Release

VALDOSTA, Ga. (AP) -- Authorities say a south Georgia high school student apparently climbed atop an upright roll of wrestling mats, fell into a center opening and died after he became trapped inside.

Lowndes County sheriff's officials said Monday that 17-year-old Lowndes High School student Kendrick Johnson became lodged inside the roll of mats, upside down. His body was found Friday in the high school's old gym.

Authorities say no foul play is suspected. Lowndes County Sheriff Chris Prine tells The Valdosta Times that an autopsy, his investigators and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation found no signs of a struggle.

Although investigators do not believe foul play was involved, the sheriff said he and his investigators will continue interviewing students and friends who have additional information.


Valdosta, GA - For the Johnson family it's the pain of not knowing what happened to their son that's tearing them apart.

17-year-old Kendrick Johnson was found dead in the gym at Lowndes High School Friday morning. They say they want to know how the school could let that happen.

"I want Lowndes High School to know they are being held accountable for my son's death. He should not have come up missing and dead during school hours," said Kenneth Johnson, the victim's father.

Kenneth Johnson says his son Kendrick went missing during class Thursday. He says they filed a missing persons report that night before he was found dead the next day.

The Lowndes Sheriff's Office says there is no reason to believe it was murder. Initial autopsy results were released Monday. They found no injuries responsible for Johnson's death. Additional testing will be needed.

"My son is gone now and we can't bring him back. But there are hundreds of other students on that campus and I want better protection for them," said Johnson.

Students held a march Monday morning in Kendrick's honor. School officials would not let us in but one student sent us some photos. They say over 100 students marched to the stadium where they surrounded the Viking on the field and prayed.

We reported Sunday the family was upset about not being allowed to see their son's body. We've learned the Sheriff did allow them to do it later that night after our interview.


Lowndes Sheriff's Department Release

Valdosta, GA - January 14, 2013, 4:40pm - An autopsy was completed by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Medical Examiner’s Office today.

During that exam, no indications of injury that would have caused the death of Kendrick Johnson were found. Additional testing will be completed in the near future in an attempt to determine the exact cause of death.

During the investigation, investigators have learned that Kendrick Johnson went into the gymnasium and appears to have climbed on top of the mats which were standing upright.

At some point Kendrick Johnson either reached into the center of one of the rolled mats or fell into the center opening of the mat and became lodged.

Investigators found no signs of a struggle having taken place. Investigators with the Sheriff’s Office have and will continue to interview students and friends who may be able to provide information.

Sheriff Prine is asking that anyone with information about this, or any other incident contact the Sheriff’s Office at {229} 671-2950 or on line at www.lowndessheriff.com. Anonymous tips can be left at {229} 671-2985.


Valdosta, GA - January 13, 2013- More than 100 family members stood in solidarity at the steps of the Lowndes County Courthouse in Valdosta Sunday.

The family of a Lowndes High School student found dead in the gymnasium Friday morning met exclusively with Eyewitness News. They say they are angry at the Lowndes Sheriff's Department and Lowndes High School and they want them to know it.

"I specifically requested that I identify the body and they told me that they would let me do it. (That) never happened," said Eddie Tooley, the victim's grandfather.

"I want to reject my son being sent to the crime lab without us identifying his body. We must be able to see his body before he leaves," said Kenneth Johnson, the victim's father.

They're upset they were not allowed to see the body of 17-year-old Kendrick Johnson to make sure it was really him. And they're upset no one is telling them how he died. But the Lowndes Sheriff's Office says there is no reason to believe it was murder.

"They specifically said he had not been shot, he had not been stabbed, there were no bruises on the body period," said Eddie Tooley.

Johnson was a Sophomore at Lowndes High. He was number 21 on the football team. He also played Basketball and track.

"He's the perfect son that anybody would want. I'm going to miss all his laughs, all his smiles. And they just took all that away from an unviolent man," said Kenneth Johnson.

Sheriff Chris Prine came out personally to meet with the family and respond to their concerns. But to us he would only say "No Comment. (It is) still under investigation."

As of late Saturday the Sheriff's Office will only publicly say the exact cause of death is not yet known but investigators continue to interview persons and examine evidence collected from the scene.

An autopsy will be conducted Monday by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Medical Examiner's Office to determine the cause of death.


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