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Justice Department won't probe death of Georgia teen Kendrick Johnson

Kendrick Johnson
Posted at 8:08 AM, Sep 06, 2013
and last updated 2014-04-04 10:03:15-04

VALDOSTA, Ga. (WTXL) -- The U.S. Justice Department will not conduct a civil rights investigation into the death of Kendrick Johnson, CNN reports.

The 17-year-old's body was found January 11, 2013 in a rolled up gym mat inside the gym at Lowndes County High School in Valdosta.

A spokesman for the U.S. Justice Department tells CNN that their criminal division is aware of concerns about Kendrick's death, but after reviewing the investigative file, it determined there is not "sufficient indication of a civil rights violation to authorize a civil rights investigation."

"We have discussed this matter with U.S. Attorney Moore, and his office is continuing to monitor and evaluate this matter, including the second autopsy report," the spokesperson told CNN, referring to U.S. Attorney Michael Moore whose jurisdiction includes Valdosta.

An initial autopsy was completed by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, finding that Johnson died as the result of "positional asphyxia", Johnson's death was ruled and accident. It's a finding that has not sat well with Johnson's family. After months of public protests and demonstrations, they convinced a judge on May 1, 2013 to allow the family to exhume Kendrick Johnson's body for the purpose of conducting an independent autopsy at the family's expense.

On September 3, 2013 the Johnson family released the finding of the second autopsy which contradicts law enforcement's initial findings. Dr. William Anderson, who performed the second autopsy, says Johnson died as the result of "unexplained, apparent non-accidental, blunt force trauma." Dr. Anderson says Johnson's body was not fully inspected during the first autopsy and never mentioned bruises on the right side of the teenager's jaw.

"We found that one area that had been undissected, involving the right lower mandible...or jaw area and the soft tissues of the right neck area, that there was hemorrhage indicating trauma to the area, and that trauma basically causes blood to come out of the blood vessels into the soft tissues and skin and so forth," Dr. Anderson said. "So what we were able to do was to diagnose the fact that there was blunt force trauma to that area."

Anderson says he believes Johnson took at least one blow to the neck.

Questioning that cause of death, Kendrick's family sent copies of the second autopsy report to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, the U.S . Attorney for Georgia's Middle District and Lowndes County Coroner -- as well as the U.S. Justice Department's criminal division -- for review.