Families Awarded $150M for Deadly 1998 Jonesboro School Shooting
Five people were killed in 1998 when two boys, ages 11 and 13, pulled the school’s fire alarm and shot at students and teachers as they evacuated.
The families of five victims who were fatally shot outside an Arkansas school back in 1998 were awarded $150 million in a civil lawsuit on Monday.
The two killers, Andrew Golden and Mitchell Johnson, set off a fire alarm at the Westside Middle School in Jonesboro on March 24, 1998. As students and teachers evacuated the school, Golden and Johnson shot at them, reports The Seattle Times.
“They were hiding in bushes and shooting at us,” said Debbie Spencer, a science teacher at the school at the time of the shooting. “We didn’t know what was going on. It was an ambush. It was chaos.”
Paige Herring, 12, Stephanie Johnson, 12, Britthney Varner, 11, and Natalie Brooks, 11, were killed. Shannon Wright, a teacher at the school, was also killed. An additional 10 students were wounded in the shooting.
Each family was awarded $20 million in damages against Johnson and $10 million in damages against Golden.
Although the families’ attorney, Bobby McDaniel, says they will most likely never receive the money, he hopes the outcome will deter the killers from profiting from the shooting.
“If either of them tries to sell their story for a book or a movie deal, or wins the lottery, this judgment means they can’t get rich without paying these families first,” says McDaniel.
Golden and Johnson were 11 and 13 at the time of the shooting and were tried in juvenile court. Under Arkansas law in 1998, the boys were expected to remain in prison until they were 21.
Johnson was released in 2005 and Golden was released in 2007. Neither was present at Monday’s court hearing.
McDaniel says winning the lawsuit will also release sealed dispositions that were taken under oath. “The parents and spouses wanted to know what happened.”
Johnson was sentenced to four years in federal prison in 2008 on a federal weapons charge. He is now free and lives in Texas.
Golden is living in Missouri under the name of Drew Grant. He attended the University of Arkansas Community College at Batesville under his new name, just 60 miles from Westside, from 2007 to 2009.