Family cheers Kendrick Johnson investigation

U.S. prosecutors will investigate the death of Georgia teen Kendrick Johnson. The 17-year-old was found dead in January inside a rolled-up gym mat in his high school.

Local police called it a freak accident, but his parents say it was murder.

Huddled around a portable television, on the south Georgia street corner where they've staged an eight-month sit-in. The family of Kendrick watched the announcement they've been waiting for.

"I am of the opinion that a sufficient basis exists for my office to conduct a formal review of the facts and investigation surrounding the death of Kendrick Johnson," said U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Georgia Michael Moore.

It's the second big victory for Kendrick's family. On Wednesday, a judge ordered Lowndes County Sheriff's Office to hand-over its full investigative file, including the surveillance video, from inside the gym where kendrick died.

"I'm so happy and we just trust in the lord and we know we haven't been down here rallying for 32 weeks for nothing," said Barbara English, Kendrick's grandmother.

Moore has called in the FBI to assist his office's investigation and to get answer several basic questions in the teen's January death.

"First, what was the cause of Mr. Johnson's death? Second, was Mr. Johnson's death the result of a crime? Third, if Mr. Johnson's death was the result of a crime, who committed that crime?" said Moore.

Kendrick's parents never believed the local sheriff's explanation that Kendrick suffocated after squeezing his 19-inch shoulders into the 14.5 inch center of a rolled gym mat to reach for a shoe, in the middle of a school day.

Kenneth and Jacquelyn Johnson and their attorneys spoke with CNN's Wolf Blitzer moments after the announcement.

"I believe, indeed that he was murdered," said his father, Kenneth Johnson.

Reporter: "Do you have any idea who may have murdered him?"

"No, I don't. That's what we want to get down to the truth," said Kenneth Johnson.

"The only question we want to know is why are they covering up for whoever killed their son," said family attorney Benjamin Crump.

Questions about the sheriff's office's investigation have made the Johnsons suspicious. Including why shoes, found yards from Kendrick's body, were not collected as evidence, and how this blood stain ended up on a wall in the gym and why investigators never found whose blood it was.

Questions have also lingered about the state's autopsy. The official cause of death was positional asphyxia; Kendrick was suffocated by his own body weight, but a second autopsy, paid for by the Johnsons, found Kendrick died as the result of unexplained, apparent non-accidental blunt force trauma, a blow to the neck.

Hundreds have rallied for months for answers, and Moore says he's received calls from many of the Johnsons' supporters.

"I appreciate the depth of those concerned, but at this time what we need are people with actual facts and knowledge of the circumstances surrounding Mr. Johnson's death to present those to us," said Moore.

In a statement to CNN, the attorney for the Lowndes County Sheriff's Office writes, in part "while Sheriff Prine has every confidence that his officer's investigation was handled with the necessary diligence to assure that all leads were examined and exhausted, he welcomes the U.S. attorney's further review of the case."

Kendrick's family is grateful for the investigation, but they call it a stepping stone, they say their push for answers will continue.


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