A Georgia sheriff’s office is reopening an investigation into the 2013 death of Kendrick Johnson, a Black teenager whose body was found inside a rolled-up gym mat in his high school gymnasium.
Lowndes County Sheriff Ashley Paulk, who was retired at the time of Johnson’s death, confirmed to NPR that his office officially reopened the investigation on Friday. It did so after receiving documents it had long requested from a Justice Department investigation that closed in 2016. “I’m not accusing anybody of anything, but I want to start fresh with it and look at it all the way through,” Paulk told Atlanta NBC affiliate WXIA on Monday. ” I think the community deserves it.” Questions, investigations and lawsuits have abounded in the years since Johnson’s body was discovered at Lowndes High School in Valdosta, Ga., in January 2013. The 17-year-old disappeared one afternoon and was found the next morning with his head facing down inside an upright rolled-up gym mat and his feet sticking out of the top. State authorities ruled his death an accident in 2013, suggesting he dove into the mat to retrieve a shoe and got trapped inside, after an autopsy found that he died of “positional asphyxia.” The Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office closed the case, but Johnson’s family still suspected foul play.
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