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Video released in mysterious death of Georgia teen Kendrick Johnson leaves questions unanswered

Surveillance footage was released that shows Kendrick Johnson before he was found dead rolled up in a gym mat.

Surveillance video taken at a Georgia high school where a student was found dead, rolled up in a gym mat, was released on Wednesday — but it doesn't appear to show the fateful moment.

A judge ordered that the recordings be released after his parents had requested the action in an effort to learn more about how their son, Kendrick Johnson, died.

One part of the newly released footage shows Johnson walking into the gym and onto the basketball court where other people are playing. The publicly released video does not show Johnson's death or anything leading up to it. Hours of additional footage may came from cameras inside and outside the gym.

Johnson was found dead at Lowndes High School in Valdosta, Ga., on Jan. 11 in what police said was a freak accident but the parents believe is murder.

An autopsy conducted by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation ruled that he suffocated inside an upright gym mat after he fell in headfirst reaching for a shoe.

NBC affiliate WXIA-TV in Atlanta first reported the video’s release on Wednesday evening.

Courtesy of Johnson family

Kendrick Johnson of Valdosta, Ga., is seen in an undated photo released by the family.

Southern Judicial Circuit Chief Judge Harry Altman made the ruling shortly after a meeting with the attorney for Johnson’s parents, Benjamin Crump, as well as representatives from the local sheriff’s office and the Lowndes County School District.

"This is not a home run, but it gets us on first base," Crump, a civil rights lawyer who had previously worked with Trayvon Martin's family, told WXIA after the meeting. 

The Johnson family, which has requested a coroner’s inquest into their son’s death, will have unrestricted access to view all of the video footage, according to the judge's ruling.

Asked Wednesday about watching his son's final moments on video, Kendrick's father, Kenneth Johnson, said: “It's just something we have to do. And so we're fighting for Kendrick ‘til the end.”

In advance of the video release Jacquelyn Johnson, Kendrick's mother, told NBC News they were determined to learn how their son died.

“We're not stopping until we get justice," she said.

Gabe Gutierrez of NBC News contributed to this report.


Family and friends of Kendrick Johnson protest outside Lowndes High School in Valdosta, Ga., in May 2013. The family believes Johnson was murdered.


Parents of teen found dead in rolled-up gym mat plead for video release