The parents of Kendrick Johnson have — for now — withdrawn a wrongful death lawsuit against the son of an FBI agent they believe was involved in their son’s death.
A companion suit, alleging a massive cover-up by state and local law enforcement, school officials and the state medical examiner’s office to protect Brian Bell and his accomplices, was also withdrawn Tuesday.
Last month, attorneys for the Bell family — arguing the plaintiffs had introduced no credible evidence — asked the judge hearing the case to issue a summary judgment. But Marcus Coleman, spokesman for Kendrick’s parents, Kenneth and Jacquelyn Johnson, said the dismissals were strategic.
“I do believe the Johnsons will revisit the matter,” Coleman told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “We did not want the civil matter to be the primary focus.”
Johnson’s body was found in a rolled-up gym mat at Lowndes High in Valdosta in January 2013. Local and state investigators concluded he became trapped in the mat while reaching for a pair of sneakers.
Former U.S. Attorney Michael Moore wasn’t convinced, however, and a federal probe was opened that October. No charges have been filed and, publicly, at least, no evidence has surfaced that links the Brian Bell and his alleged accomplices, including older brother Branden, to Johnson’s death.
Coleman said he believes that investigation is nearing completion, and when it does, he expects the Johnsons to refile their wrongful death suits. The law requires they do so within six months.
Moore has since resigned and the case has since been transferred, without explanation, to the U.S. attorney’s office in the Northern District of Ohio.
Brian Bell’s attorney, Jason Ferguson, said the FBI has told him it has cleared his client of any involvement but the agency has declined comment.
Witnesses and surveillance footage place the brothers away from the old gymnasium at Lowndes High where Kendrick was last seen alive. Branden Bell, according to teammates, his coach and the bus driver, was en route to a wrestling tournament in Macon at the time. School cameras captured Brian in class on the other side of the sprawling campus.
The Bells, meanwhile, have no plans to drop their countersuit against the Johnsons, according to Brian’s mother, Karen Bell.
“I’ll see them in court,” Bell told The AJC Tuesday.