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Riverdale High mourns loss of student

By Greg Gelpi

With makeshift posters and signs, Riverdale High School students showed support for a classmate what they called a fellow outsider.

A Riverdale High School student known as an "outsider" by his classmates was killed when the car he was in overturned Sunday outside of Tuscaloosa, Ala.

Franklin Davon Johnson, 16, died Sunday and Noel Johnson, 17; Angel Garza, 14; and Emanuel Conde, 17, remained in serious condition Monday.

"He might not mean a lot to anyone else, but to us he was like a brother," Riverdale High student Aaron Jackson said. "We are all just really upset that something like this would happen."

Alabama State Trooper Chris Ellis, a public information officer, said that the freshman and sophomore high school students were in a 2001 GMC Jimmy that went off Interstate 59 and overturned around 8:15 a.m. Sunday.

Ellis didn't know who was driving the vehicle and didn't know if any of the students were wearing seat belts, but said that the incident is being investigated as a standard traffic accident. There were no charges as of Monday, and the investigation is ongoing.

"They all wanted to escape to Canada," classmate Steven Johnson said.

Students at Riverdale High made signs for their classmate, saying he was a member of a tight-knit group of students who were outsiders, sharing interests such as skateboarding and music.

The Clayton County school system dispatched a crisis team to Riverdale High School to assist students and staff coping with the death.

Counselors were there Monday and will be there today to "provide a Band-Aid" and a "safety net" for the school community, said Joe Nail, the school system's coordinator of psychological services.

"Any time a tragedy occurs in a school community, the reaction is normal," Nail said. "People often display a wide range of emotions, such as shock and disbelief."

About 20 students turned to counselors Monday, he said, and counselors will continue to walk through Franklin Johnson's class schedule today to tend to the emotional needs of students.

Riverdale High was hit with tragedy last school year as well. Marcus Johnson was shot and killed outside of a nightclub in Atlanta in February.