State officials later concurred that Johnson’s death was accidental and listed his cause of death as “positional asphyxia,” or suffocation by his own body weight.
Johnson’s parents have called the official story a “coverup” and said they believe their son’s death was a homicide. A separate autopsy commissioned by the family attributed the 17-year-old’s death to “apparent non-accidental, blunt force trauma.”
The complete list of those subpoenaed for Thursday’s grand jury proceeding was not clear, but Lowndes County Sheriff Chris Prine said he had not received a federal subpoena, and Lowndes County Schools said it was subpoenaed only to provide hard drives containing surveillance video from the school.
County Coroner Bill Watson said he hasn’t received a subpoena, either, though the FBI has interviewed him twice and he has spoken to the U.S. attorney. Johnson’s parents say they, too, spoke with the FBI during a three-hour interview in Thomasville, 40 miles west of Valdosta, in December.
Asked during a January interview if he found the feds’ involvement encouraging, Johnson’s father, Kenneth Johnson, said, “We really won’t feel anything until justice comes for Kendrick. We’re glad they’re here, but my feelings won’t be there until we get justice for our son.”
His wife, Jacquelyn Johnson, said the FBI interview left her hopeful.
“They answered a lot of questions about a lot of what we had heard,” she said. “I felt better because it’s another set of eyes looking into the case.”
The Johnson family is being represented by Attorney Ben Crump, he also represents the family of slain teenager Trayvon Martin.