After Johnson’s body was found in the upright, rolled up wrestling mat at Valdosta High School in January, state medical examiners ruled his death accidental. Johnson’s family didn’t accept the story, hiring an independent examiner to perform a second autopsy. That one suggested Johnson died of blunt force trauma to the head.
The recently released images have lead a former FBI agent to question the official story.
“I don’t believe this was an accident. I think this young man met with foul play,” said Harold Copus, who is now a private investigator in Atlanta.
Johnson’s father also believes his son’s death was malicious in nature.
“They know something happened in that gym, and they don’t want it to come out,” Kenneth Johnson said.
Officials concluded that Johnson got stuck inside the mat while trying to retrieve a shoe that had fallen in its center.
Another picture brings the accidental claim into question. It shows Johnson’s face bloated with pooled blood, some of which had poured out of his body and onto his dreadlocks and the floor.
There was also blood photographed on a nearby wall, though investigators said it wasn’t Johnson’s and had been there for some time.
Copus noted that one of the pictures (left) showed no blood on the sneaker he was trying to reach for. He also questioned the original investigation’s thoroughness.
A pair of gym shoes (pictured below right) found near Johnson’s body had a red substance on them. Investigators concluded it wasn’t blood and didn’t collect the shoes as evidence, which baffled Copus.
“If you’re running a crime scene, then you’re going to say ‘That’s potential evidence. Obviously, we’re going to check this out and find out who does it belong to,’ “he said.
As for the bloodstains on the wall, he found it hard to believe they wouldn’t have been cleaned up sooner.
“There is no way that they would allow whoever was supposed to clean this gym to leave that blood on that wall.”
Though the Justice Department has refused to open a civil rights investigation into the athlete’s death, Georgia prosecutors are reviewing the images to see if another investigation is needed.
To Johnson’s father, it’s clear what happened.
“Someone murdered him,” he added. “They should be in jail.”