VALDOSTA, Ga. (CBS Atlanta) — A high school student died in a tragic accident after getting stuck in upright wrestling mats while trying to retrieve his shoe.
The Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office told The Valdosta Daily Times that 17-year-old Kendrick’s Johnson’s body was found upside-down, lodged inside a wrestling mat at the Lowndes High School gym.
“At some point, Kendrick Johnson either reached into the center of one of the rolled mats or fell into the center opening of the mat and became lodged,” the sheriff’s office said in a statement to the Daily Times. “We feel like he was trying to reach a shoe that was down that hole, but no one knows (why he reached into the mat) but him and the good Lord.”
The sheriff’s office says that the rush of blood to Johnson’s head over a period of time caused him to pass out and eventually die.
An autopsy conducted by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation Medical Examiner’s Office found there was no foul play involved in Johnson’s death.
“During that exam, no indications of injury that would have caused the death of Kendrick Johnson were found,” the sheriff’s office told the Daily Times. “Investigators found no signs of a struggle having taken place.”
Despite what authorities have said, Johnson’s family believes the teen was murdered.
“I want to express how did my son go missing during school hours in broad daylight? We know our son was murdered while he was at Lowndes High School. We do know that,” Kenneth Johnson, Kendrick’s father, told WALB-TV.
Kendrick Johnson was first reported missing on Jan. 10. His body was found inside the school’s gym the next day.
Authorities will continue to interview students and friends. A toxicology test on Johnson won’t be completed for a few weeks.