On Thursday, February 6, one of the lawyers from Kendrick Johnson's legal team, Benjamin Crump, talked to a local television station in Albany,Georgia, while visiting the city's Civil Rights Institute.
It has been thirteen months since the 17 year-old Lowndes County student was found wrapped inside one of twenty-one gym mats at the Old Gymnasium on the Lowndes County High School campus.
The case had slowly built momentum over the course of 2013 and last October the U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Georgia based in Macon took the case.
Crump said the following :
“Trayvon Martin and the case of Kendrick Johnson are historic and just like the case of Emmett Till 50 years ago. It galvanizes you to take a stand,” said Benjamin Crump.
Although the Trayvon Martin case is closed, the Johnson family is still fighting for the truth. They’ve filed a lawsuit against the funeral home that allegedly stuffed their son's body with newspaper.
“Those valuable organs inside his body would have presented us valuable evidence as to what happened to him,” said Benjamin Crump.
He said Kendrick Johnson’s family is prepared to go as far as they have to until know the real reason of how and why he died.
“One thing they know without a shadow of a doubt, their son did not climb up into a wrestling mat and get stuck and die. That flies in the face of all common sense,” said Crump.
During an October 31, 2013 press conference U.S. Attorney Michael Moore had said "Facts, not feelings and opinions, no matter how sincere, are the basis of a legal investigation."
To this day, questions still remain -- thirteen months later.
In the Lowndes Co. Sheriff's report the narrative that eventually became public and had been sent to the U.S. Attorney Michael Moore details how Coach Philip Pieplow became aware during his 'second-block' morning class in the nine o'clock hour that Kendrick Johnson's body was inside one of twenty-one rolled gym mats.
In the Lowndes Sheriff's narrative, no actual times were listed when all these alleged events were described by witnesses and this version was generated in May 2013, not January 2013.
In the age of social media, people use tweets and Facebook via mobile devices which helps provide a clearer picture of when certain events happened.
Students, teachers and parents may have been silent in talking to the media last year. However, those mobile devices helped to provide some insight or a timeline about what happened on that unseasonably warm January morning in 2013 when Kendrick Johnson was found.
However, the Macon Examiner has learned that there were numerous tweets that had a time-stamp as early as 7:34 am in the morning on the day of January 11, 2013 that stated a dead body had been found in the Old Gymnasium.
Why is this significant?
It brings into question that there were reports of a dead body inside the Old Gymnasium before Coach Philip Pieplow allegedly first became aware of a dead body during his class.
Pieplow and another student had moved Kendrick's body and the mat he was wrapped in, but it was clearly evident that the 17 year-old was not alive.
However, why did it take an extended period of time before paramedics were called ?
EMT Nick Tomlinson --formerly of the South Georgia Medical Center-- was summoned to Lowndes High School at 10:32 am on January 11, 2013, according to the EMT report submitted.
As early as 7:34 am in the morning, there were tweets being sent and received by their 'followers'.
The doors of Lowndes County High School were open during the seven o'clock hour and prior to classes commencing for that day, breakfast is served to students, a few teachers offer tutoring to students and resource officers (Lowndes Co.deputies) were somewhere on campus.
Johnson's family were already at the school's main office trying to get answers.
As early as 9:51 am in the morning, there were tweets that local authorities from Thomasville's GBI office and the Lowndes County Sheriff's Office were already on the scene.
The city of Thomasville is about an hour west of Valdosta.So what time did Steve Turner, the agent in charge receive the call--before nine o'clock or was it before 8' o'clock in the morning?
Throughout the various reports that were made available through open records requests, there is still incomplete information in regard to all 911 calls made in reference to theKendrick Johnson case.
It is now well-known at this point that the Lowndes Coroner, Bill Watson, was called hours later after Kendrick Johnson was found and it brings into question what did the Superintendent Wes Taylor and principal Jay Floyd or even members of the Lowndes Co. Board of Education know as these events were happening?
This bears repeating. Paramedics were called--according to reports that are available-- at 10:30 in the morning.
It begs the question of whether the well-being of Kendrick Johnson was ever a priority by local authorities and the Lowndes High School administration along with properly persevering evidence in a sincere effort to find out what happened?
When Nick Tomlinson and his EMT partner were called, he was not originally notified that a dead body had been found , but was led to believe that someone was having a cardiac episode.
If the Lowndes 911 Center dispatched the call at 10:30 am, why would they provide incorrect information?
Did the Lowndes 911 Center have contact with local authorities such as the GBI Thomasville office, the local FBI field office in Valdosta and/or Sheriff Prine and people from the Sheriff's Office or even the Superintendent?
U.S. Attorney Michael Moore has expressed we should deal in facts, but knowing what was said and/or done or not done by emergency respondents should be considered.
Danny Weeks, Lowndes County Emergency Communication Center director, has been head of the center since 2006, and has worked with the county for 29 years.
Plus, did the Lowndes County Fire Rescue which has their own set of paramedics appear on the scene at Lowndes and did they attempt to render aid prior to Tomlinson's arrival? If they arrived, where are the reports to verify this?
Tomlinson examined Kendrick's body found evidence of blunt-force trauma to the neck and said in his report that this should be considered a 'crime scene', but Johnson's injury to his neck wasn't mentioned in the Medical Examiner's May 2013 report prepared by Dr. Maryanne Gaffney-Kraft.
A second independent autopsy commissioned by Kendrick's parents suggested that Kendrick had actually died from a violent blow to the neck area.
On May 23, 2013, attorneys representing Ken and Jackie Johnson had come forth with information from a paramedic report which confirms that there were significant injuries on the body--specifically the face-- of 17 year-old Kendrick Johnson that contributed to his death in early January.
The paramedic had refused to move the body, which was in a pool of blood along with vomit, after inspecting the injuries of an already deceased Johnson.
The Valdosta Daily Times in their May 4 edition wrote about Prine's own explanation of why Bill Watson, the Lowndes County coroner wasn't immediately notified in a death scene investigation.
By law, someone from the sheriff’s office should have contacted Lowndes County Coroner Bill Watson when they learned of Johnson’s body so that a declaration of death could be made, and Prine acknowledged that they should have done so.
However, fearing a leak to the media and understanding that there was little the coroner could do until investigators secured all of the evidence and reached Johnson’s body, Prine waited to call Watson.
“It’s been kind of an understanding with all of the coroners from the surrounding counties,” said Prine. “Rather than sitting there in the parking lot waiting for us to finish, you just call them when you get to the body. And I swear to you— no law-enforcement officer touched that body until the coroner got there and examined it.”
The Valdosta-Lowndes Regional Lab, who examined Kendrick Johnson's body at Lowndes High and held his body for three days at their facility, is under the control of the Sheriff's Office and the Valdosta Police Department and are considered employees.