After narrating and producing Finding Kendrick Johnson, “Black-ish” star Jenifer Lewis is calling for a renewed sense of urgency in solving the murder of Kendrick Johnson and urging Congress to investigate.
Almost nine years ago on January 11, 2013, the body of 17-year-old Black teenager Kendrick Johnson “was found in a vertically rolled-up gym mat at his high school…To this day, the crime remains unsolved. The preliminary autopsy ruled his death accidental, but the family, doubting it was an accident due to the state in which his body was found and because surveillance footage went missing, ordered a private, second autopsy that concluded death by blunt force trauma.”
Finding Kendrick Johnson premiered after an Oscar-qualifying run in theaters, and is told through the lens of Johnson’s friends and family. Per the IMDB plot summary, this film is the “product of a 4 year undercover investigation into the facts of this case…[and] this new documentary hopes to shed light on one of the most important American stories of our time. So what really happened to KJ?”
Lewis appeared on TMZ Live this past Wednesday, saying “This is the most important film I’ve ever worked on. What this family has gone through is unspeakable but we must speak it so the public knows the truth.” Lewis told stated, “You know how much evidence the FBI has to have to storm somebody’s house with guns AK- 47s out? And then when they got in there and saw that it was an FBI agent, it was just pushed under the rug, just pushed under the rug. Another Black kid. So what?”
The Department of Justice released a statement in 2016 following the culmination of an over two year long federal probe stating, “After extensive investigation into this tragic event, federal investigators determined that there is insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that someone or some group of people willfully violated Kendrick Johnson’s civil rights or committed any other prosecutable federal crime. Accordingly, the investigation into this incident has been closed without the filing of federal criminal charges.”
Earlier this year, the investigation into Johnson’s death was reopened. Ashley Paul, Sheriff of Lowndes County, who came out of retirement in 2017 requested information that was collected as a result of the federal investigation be released to his department in April of 2019. Three months later in July of 2019, Paulk’s request was denied by federal investigators, but Paulk suspects a November 2020 visit by the Johnsons led to the eventual release of the results to Paulk’s office of “17 boxes of written and electronic evidence from the federal investigation” the Atlanta Voice reports.
Director Jason Pollock spoke with The Hollywood Reporter about the case saying, “[f]inding the answer is not as important as elevating KJ’s legacy into the culture and making sure that this wasn’t just a regional Georgia story, but an international story.” In an interview with PEOPLE, Pollock said, “There’s no conspiracy theories in the film…But these are the facts. These are the facts that are irrefutable that are mostly from the state’s own documents.”