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Mitchell Johnson

Mug shot of Johnson after 2007 arrest
Born August 11, 1984 (1984-08-11) (age 25)
Grand Meadow, Minnesota
Charge(s) 1998: 5 counts of murder, 10 counts aggravated assault
2007: drug possession, unlawful firearm possession
2008: theft, financial identity fraud, drug possession
Penalty 1998: Incarceration until age 18 and to 21 on federal charges
2008: 4-year federal sentence + 18-year state sentence
Status Incarcerated
Parents Scott Johnson
Gretchen Woodward
Andrew Golden
Born May 25, 1986 (1986-05-25) (age 23)
Jonesboro, Arkansas, U.S.A
Charge(s) Murder, attempted murder, unlawful firearm possession
Penalty Incarceration until age 21
Status Released
Parents Jacqueline and Dennis Golden

Mitchell Scott Johnson (born August 11, 1984) and Andrew Douglas Golden (born May 25, 1986) were middle school students who committed the Westside Middle School massacre, killing four students and one teacher, and wounding ten others.

Contents

Background

Mitchell Scott Johnson was born in Grand Meadow, Minnesota to Gretchen and Scott Johnson.[1] When Mitchell was seven, his parents divorced and he and his brother moved with their mother to Jonesboro, Arkansas. His mother soon remarried to Terry Woodward, an inmate at the prison where she was a guard. Johnson had a good relationship with his stepfather and brother, and adults who remember him described him as being quiet and respectful. He was a former member of the Central Baptist Church youth choir, later joining the youth group at the Revival Tabernacle Church in Jonesboro.

Following the shooting, Johnson's attorney claimed that he had been sexually abused when he was 6 and 7 years old by a "family member of the day care where he was placed." One year prior to the shooting, 12-year-old Mitchell was charged with molesting a 3-year-old girl while visiting southern Minnesota with his family. However, the record of the case was expunged because of Mitchell's age.[1]

Andrew Douglas Golden was born and raised in Jonesboro, Arkansas to Jacqueline and Dennis Golden. By all accounts, he came from a stable household, having a good relationship with both his parents, and regularly visiting his grandparents and great-grandmother.[2] Both of his parents worked as postal workers, while his paternal grandfather, Douglas Golden, was a wildlife conservation officer in Jonesboro. He was raised to be familiar with firearms and their use at an early age; he was given his first firearm by his father when he was six years old.

Middle school

Johnson and Golden were both students at Westside Middle School, and met and became friends on a school bus they rode home from school.[2] Together they were known to bully other students, and were recalled talking of wanting to belong to the Bloods and smoke marijuana.[2] The Texaco truck stop was a popular hang-out for youths in Jonesboro,[2] and adolescents there remember Johnson claiming to belong to street gangs. He also spoke of "having a lot of killing to do",[2] and his classmates also commented that he had a fascination with firearms. He had particularly threatened to kill sixth-grader Candace Porter, his former girlfriend who ended their relationship.

Golden was a sixth grader at the school, where schoolmates said he displayed troublesome behavior. He would often engage other students in fist fights and use profane language when speaking with teachers. A classmate accused him of killing her cat with a BB gun. After the shooting, Johnson claimed that Golden approached him of wanting to start a spree shooting at their school.

The massacre

Trial

During the trial, Johnson hung his head and read a letter of apology he had written to victims' families. Mitchell said he wasn't targeting anyone. "We were not going to shoot at anyone in particular," he said. "I really thought we would scare them. I am sorry. I hope anyone who listens to these words knows how truly sorry I am."

While in detention awaiting trial, Johnson wrote a letter that stated: "Hi. My name is Mitchell. My thoughts and prayers are with those people who were killed, or shot, and their families. I am really sad inside about everything. My thoughts and prayers are with those kids that I go to school with. I really want people to know the real Mitchell someday. Sincerely, Mitchell Johnson."[1]

Due to their age, they were tried as juveniles, and were found guilty of five counts of murder. Following their convictions, Johnson and Golden were taken by National Guard helicopter to Alexander, Arkansas, the location of the Youth Services Division's juvenile facility and the state's most secure juvenile facility.[3]

Release

Johnson was released on August 11, 2005, on his 21st birthday due to federal gun crimes. Originally he was to only be held until he turned 18 years old. He spent less than 2 years in prison for each murder that he committed.[4] He is allowed to buy and own firearms. In interviews with Johnson's mother, she has said that he wants to leave Jonesboro and become a Baptist minister. However in a deposition taken for the civil case, he stated that he wanted to become a Seventh Day Adventist Minister, but hasn't found a Seventh Day Adventist church that he liked. Golden was released on May 25, 2007, also his 21st birthday.[5] Golden's precise whereabouts were unknown until he applied for a concealed weapon permit in Arkansas on October 7, 2008, under the name he now uses, Drew Douglas Grant. His application was denied by Arkansas state police, who noted that Golden had lied on the application about his previous residences and claimed it would be illegal for Golden to own or possess a firearm, though the reason for this is unclear. The assumed name that Golden was using had been unknown up until this point due to a gag order, but police were able to tie Andrew Golden to Grant through fingerprint records during the background check for the permit.[6]

Golden completed his civil case deposition on May 6, 2008.[7]

2007-2008 legal trouble

On January 1, 2007, Johnson was arrested by the ATF after a traffic stop in Fayetteville, Arkansas on misdemeanor charges of carrying a weapon—a loaded 9 mm pistol—and possession of 21.2 grams of marijuana. Though the van Johnson was riding in was registered to him, the driver was 22-year-old Justin Trammell. Trammell and Johnson reportedly met at Alexander Youth Services Correctional Facility in Alexander, Arkansas, where Trammell was incarcerated after pleading guilty to the 1999 crossbow murder of his father, a crime committed when Trammell was 15. The pair were roommates and provided officers with the same Fayetteville address. Trammel was cited for careless driving and released. Johnson was arrested for possession of marijuana and a loaded weapon and later released on a $1,000 bond. He had a court appearance on January 26, 2007 at the Washington County, Arkansas courthouse.

Johnson was indicted by a federal grand jury on October 24, 2007 for possession of a firearm while either using or addicted to a controlled substance. The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of Arkansas reported that Johnson pleaded not guilty and was released on a $5,000 bond. Johnson's trial began on January 28, 2008. After two days of testimony from the prosecution and the defense witnesses, Johnson was found guilty on a charge of possessing a weapon while being a drug user.[8]

In February 2008, just days after his conviction, Johnson was arrested again, this time for possession of marijuana at the convenience store he worked at and on suspicion of using a stolen credit card.[9]

In September 2008, US District Judge Jimm Larry Hendren sentenced Mitchell Johnson to four years in prison on the weapon and drug charges. In his sentencing, the judge expressed dismay that Johnson had not taken advantage of the chance he had to go straight. He told him "No matter your sentence, you still have a life, those killed in 1998 do not". On October 7, 2008, Johnson pleaded guilty to a felony theft charge and misdemeanor possession of marijuana. Johnson admitted that he stole a debit card left by a disabled man at the Bentonville gas station where he worked and subsequently used it to purchase a meal at a local Burger King. He also admitted that, at the time he was arrested, he was in possession of marijuana.[10][11]

On November 14, 2008, Johnson, now 24 years old, was sentenced to 12 years in prison for the theft charge and misdemeanor possession charges. Although Johnson could have faced up to 30 years, the sentence of 12 years was chosen because Johnson technically had no criminal record from the Jonesboro shooting.[12]

On January 23, 2009, Johnson was sentenced to six additional years in prison for an additional charge of theft by receiving and financial identity fraud for using the stolen card to purchase a meal from a local Burger King. Circuit Judge William Storey told Johnson "You continue to run afoul of the law. I am hopeful this is the last time." This brought Johnson's combined state sentences to 18 years.[13]

Johnson will have to complete his federal sentence of four years before serving his 18-year state sentence.[13] He will likely remain incarcerated well into his 30s.[12]

References

  1. ^ a b c Shooting suspect claims he was molested, Associated Press (reprinted by USA Today)
  2. ^ a b c d e From wilt talk and frienship, to five deaths in schoolyard, New York Times (March 29, 1998)
  3. ^ Ark. vows to toughen juvenile sentencing by Carol Morello, USA Today.
  4. ^ School shooter free after seven years - Nightly News with Brian Williams - MSNBC.com
  5. ^ Westside school shooter released
  6. ^ Koon, David (2008-12-11), "Westside killer seeks handgun permit", Arkansas Times, http://www.arktimes.com/Articles/ArticleViewer.aspx?ArticleID=9656fb86-7479-4ec8-88f2-8c7596d09e2e, retrieved 2008-12-11  
  7. ^ KAIT - Jonesboro, AR: Second WestSide Shooter Served
  8. ^ Mitchell Johnson Trial Wrap-Up by Will Carter, KAIT - Jonesboro, Arkansas, January 30, 2008.
  9. ^ Johnson suspected in theft of debit card by Michelle Bradford, Arkansas Democrat Gazette - Northwest Arkansas Edition, February 6, 2008.
  10. ^ Johnson Pleads Guilty to Theft, Drug Charges, Associated Press (reprinted by KATV7 News), October 8, 2008.
  11. ^ Jonesboro shooter pleads guilty to theft, Associated Press (reprinted by USA Today), October 8, 2008.
  12. ^ a b Jonesboro shooter gets more prison time in Ark. by Jon Gambrell, Associated Press (reprinted by Fox News), November 14, 2008.
  13. ^ a b Ark. school shooter gets extra 6 years for theft, Associated Press (reprinted by google,com), January 23, 2009.







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