DOJ closes Kendrick Johnson investigation; no charges filed

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By: Noelani Mathews
June 20, 2016

VALDOSTA, Ga. (WCTV) -- For three years, the Valdosta community has been asking for answers to what happened to Kendrick Johnson.

On Monday, the Department of Justice closed the case, now forcing the community to move forward.

"I felt like it was taking too long and in the course of taking so long, I think it's also adversely affected the Johnsons and this community," says Chief Brian Childress, with the Valdosta Police Department.

He feels the news should have come much sooner.

"I'm just relieved that today they're giving the family and this community the answer,” Chief Childress adds.

An answer that’s shocking to Jai'kel Robinson, and many others in South Georgia.

"As a black male going to VSU, it kind of puts a spotlight on us, like what are they as a community going to do to come back at it," says Robinson, a student at Valdosta State.

Another VSU student, Amber Chinn, adds, “It can be kind of a race issue, but that's not the forefront, a child lost his life."

A 17-year-old student, whose body was found at Lowndes High School in a rolled up gym mat in 2013.

"At the end of the day, it's a mother who lost her son, who was about to graduate and live his own life," says Chinn.

"I'm glad things are finally coming to a close, but three years later? It should've happened three years ago," adds Robinson.

Three years gone, but the loss of KJ, many say, they will never forget.

By: WCTV Eyewitness News
June 20, 2016

VALDOSTA, Ga. (WCTV) -- The Department of Justice says it will not file criminal charges in the death of Kendrick Johnson.

Officials made the announcement in a press release issued Monday.

Johnson's body was found in a rolled-up gym mat inside Lowndes High School in January of 2013. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation ruled that Johnson had suffocated inside the gym mat.

The US Attorney for the Middle District of Georgia launched its investigation in in October of 2013.

DOJ officials say that there is "insufficient evidence" to prove that anyone "willfully violated Kendrick Johnson's civil rights" or committed any other crime and that the case has been closed.

The Johnson family learned that there will be no federal charges during a meeting with prosecutors at the U.S. Attorney's Office on Monday.

The Johnsons say they were told in the meeting that the autopsy ordered by the family, that showed Johnson died of blunt force trauma, was correct . The state had said an initial autopsy determined Johnson died of asphyxiation. However, the U.S. Attorney's Office says the threshold to file federal charges was so high there simply wasn't enough evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that an act was committed, who committed it, and why.

In a statement, Acting United States Attorney Carole Rendon said, “The Department of Justice, in particular the lawyers and investigators who have worked tirelessly on this investigation, express their most sincere condolences to Kendrick Johnson’s parents, family, and friends. We cannot imagine the pain of their loss, or the depths of their sorrow. We regret that we were unable to provide them with more definitive answers about Kendrick’s tragic death.”

The Johnsons announced that they will refile the civil lawsuits in the case that were dropped a few months ago.

Kendrick's mother, Jacquelyn Johnson, said, "We're still ready to push forward. We're not stopping, we're not giving up, because we know something happened to Kendrick Johnson. Kendrick was murdered and they all but came out and said they know he was murdered, but nothing to be done about it."

By: Noelani Mathews
June 20, 2016

LOWNDES CO., Ga. -- The family of Kendrick Johnson, a 17-year-old whose body was found in a gym mat at Lowndes High School, will hear back from Federal investigators, according to spokesperson Marcus Coleman.

Monday morning, Coleman tells Eyewitness News Reporter Noelani Mathews they will be in Macon, Georgia this afternoon speaking with prosecutors at the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

He says they will find out whether there will be charges in KJ's death today.

We will update you as more details become available on WCTV.

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