Warning: Some graphic images are in this video.
It has been six years since the controversial death of 19 year old Private First Class LaVena Johnson and the mystery of her death still goes unsolved. In the pursit of liberty we often find ourselves fixated on broad issues such as monetary policy, foreign policy, etc. It is important not to lose sight of the individuals who suffer as a result of government injustice.
The daughter of Dr John Johnson, a service veteran and Linda Johnson. Johnson was born and grew up in Florissant, Missouri. The 5’1″ African American honor student enrolled in the Army immediately after graduating from Hazelwood Central High School. She was sent to Iraq and stationed in Balad. She had been there for 8 weeks before her death on July 19, 2005.
Johnson’s death was officially ruled a suicide by the Department of Defense. However, her father became suspicious when he saw her body in the funeral home and decided to investigate. The Army initially refused to release information, but did so under the Freedom of Information Act after Representative William Lacy Clay, Jr. raised questions about it at the congressional hearings over Pat Tilman’s death.
The autopsy report and photographs revealed Johnson had a broken nose, black eye, loose teeth, burns from a corrosive chemical on her genitals, and a gunshot wound that seemed inconsistent with suicide. Several reporters have suspected that the chemical burns were to destroy DNA evidence of a rape.
A spokesman from the House Armed Services Committee said in June 2008 that the committee was looking into Johnson’s death, but they were not yet committing to a formal investigation. Christopher Grey, chief of public affairs for the U.S. Criminal Investigative Command for the Army has said that the case remains closed as far as they are concerned.
Following a February 2007 KMOV news report on Johnson’s death, an online petition addressed to the House Armed Services Committee and the Senate Armed Services Committee was launched. This was followed by the creation of an official LaVena Johnson website dedicated to developments in prompting a new Army investigation of her death. The petition closed on May 24, 2008 with nearly 12,000 signatures; preparations are being made for delivery to the two committees. In July 2008, the online Black activist group Color of Change launched an online petition calling on Henry Waxman, chair of the House Oversight Committee, to conduct a hearing into LaVena Johnson’s death and the Army’s handling of her case and others like it.
I can only speculate as to what the actual cicumstances were surrounding the tragic death of this young lady. If her death was, in fact, a suicide then I am saddened that her family and friends were forced to lose her prematurely. If her death was the result of foul play then it is shameful and criminal for the Department of Defense to rule her murder as a suicide. Unfortunately, if this is found to be true, it will become just one more piece of evidence suggesting that the state will sacrifice life, truth, and justice in order to maintain its legitimacy.Published in