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Kendrick Johnson footage released; expert finds it 'highly suspicious'

From Victor Blackwell CNN | 11/22/2013, 5:38 p.m.
Lowndes County Schools insists the video is "a raw feed with no edits," and the Lowndes County Sheriff's Office, which asserts Kendrick Johnson accidentally died while reaching for a shoe in one of the mats, says it didn't edit any files, according to their lawyers.

"(The surveillance video has) been altered in a number of ways, primarily in image quality and likely in dropped information, information loss," he said. "There are also a number of files that are corrupted because they've not been processed correctly and they're not playable. I can't say why they were done that way, but they were not done correctly, and they were not done thoroughly. So we're missing information."

Two cameras in the gym are missing an hour and five minutes, their hiatus ending at 1:09, when Johnson enters the gym. Another pair of cameras are missing two hours and 10 minutes each. They don't begin recording again until 1:15 and 1:16, according to their time stamps.

What's certain, based on video from a camera outside the gym, is that numerous students walked into the gym during the hour and five minutes that the cameras weren't recording, but it's not clear whether that was sufficient to activate the cameras' motion sensors.

The time stamp on a camera outside the gym also appears to be 10 minutes behind the cameras inside the gym.

"I can't tell you whether there was no information recorded in the digital video system or whether somebody made an error and didn't capture it or whether somebody just didn't provide it," Fredericks said.

CNN has requested access to the original surveillance servers. But Fredericks cautions that the video could be gone, as newer surveillance would replace it if it wasn't recovered promptly from the school's digital video recorder.

The police have said they didn't receive a copy of the videos until several days after Johnson's body was found, according to an unredacted report obtained by CNN after a legal process.

Fredericks told CNN he found it "highly suspicious" that an hour of video could be missing, especially considering how the material was acquired by police.

"The investigator's responsibility is to acquire the entire digital video recording system and have their staff define what they want to obtain," he said.

According to an incident report from the Sheriff's Office, however, a detective watched a portion of the video then asked an information technology officer employed by the school board to produce a "copy of the surveillance video for the entire wing of the school with the old gym for the last 48 hours."

Five days later, the sheriff's report says, the IT officer delivered a hard drive to the detective, who verified it contained what he requested.

"Right now, what they've done, is they've left it up to the school district as to what it is they want to provide to the police, and I think that probably is a mistake," Fredericks said.

"You don't want somebody who might be party to the responsibility to make the decision as to what they provide the police."

He added, "Until I have the digital video system in my hand and I can say, or an investigator can say, 'Everything is intact, and this is what was recorded,' I would still be highly suspicious of this."

The Johnson family will now have to wait to see whether the school's surveillance servers shed more light on their son's death, but the teen's parents say they won't be deterred.

"We are Kendrick Johnson," his mother, Jacquelyn Johnson, said. "That's my child, and we're going to fight until it's all over, until we get the truth. That's all we've ever asked for -- was the truth about what happened to Kendrick Johnson."

CNN's Devon Sayers contributed to this report, which was written by Eliott C. McLaughlin.

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