MACON, Ga. (AP) — There’s not enough evidence to support federal criminal charges in the case of a teenager found dead inside a rolled-up gym mat at a Georgia high school, the U.S. Department of Justice announced on Monday.
The decision comes after a lengthy review of circumstances surrounding the death of 17-year-old Kendrick Johnson of Valdosta.
Local and state authorities had ruled the teenager’s death Jan. 10, 2013, was a freak accident. They concluded that Johnson got stuck upside down in the middle of a rolled up mat and was unable to breathe.
Johnson’s parents insisted someone must have killed their son and have pushed to reopen the investigation.
“After extensive investigation into this tragic event, federal investigators determined that there is insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that someone or some group of people willfully violated Kendrick Johnson’s civil rights or committed any other prosecutable federal crime,” the Justice Department said in a statement Monday. “Accordingly, the investigation into this incident has been closed without the filing of federal criminal charges.
Classmates at Lowndes High School found his body on Jan. 11, 2013, inside one of the rolled-up gym mats propped upright against a wall next to the gymnasium bleachers.
The strange circumstances of Johnson’s death attracted attention far beyond his hometown of Valdosta near the Georgia-Florida state line. Rallies and marches calling for answers drew up to 200 people, while thousands followed social media sites dedicated to the case.