Three Suspects Now Charged In Young Dolph’s Killing
Young Dolph | Photo by Jason Mendez/Getty Images

It’s been two months since Young Dolph was gunned down on November 17, 2021 in broad daylight while buying cookies at Makeda’s, a popular downtown Memphis bakery. The Thornton family (Young Dolph’s real name was Adolph Thornton Jr.) is closer to having answers, as three suspects are now in custody for the shooting. 

With a $15,000 reward offered for information and after a U.S. Marshal manhunt, Justin Johnson was captured in Indiana on Tuesday. This was after Johnson, a rapper who goes by Straight Drop, “had posted on social media over the weekend, maintaining his innocence and saying that he intended to turn himself in on Monday.” Johnson had also violated his supervised federal release from a previous weapons conviction and there was an outstanding warrant out for his arrest. 

That same day, Cornelius Smith was indicted by a grand jury with a first-degree murder charge and on “additional counts of attempted first-degree murder, convicted felon in possession of a firearm, employment of a firearm in the commission of a dangerous felony, and theft of property over $10,000,” CNN reports. Smith had been arrested on December 9, 2021 after an anonymous tip associated him with the getaway car used during the homicide.

“U.S. Marshal Tyreece Miller, Memphis Police Chief C. J. Davis, and Shelby County District Attorney General Amy Weirich” held a joint press conference on Wednesday, to provide additional details, which included the arrest of Shondale Barnett, who “was charged with helping Johnson evade law enforcement.”

This is yet another promising young hip-hop artist whose life was prematurely ended in recent years. In 2020, The Guardian attempted to answer the question “why is a generation of rappers dying young?” New York’s Hunter College social justice and hip-hop expert, Calvin Smiley, attributes this to the fact that “[r]ecord labels often don’t care about these rappers. ‘They know that when they’re done, the next SoundCloud or Instagram rapper is behind them.’” Jimmy Duval, a producer who used to work with XXX, said “The rap game isn’t like any other industry…There are a lot of guns and bullets flying around.”

This wasn’t the first shooting targeting Young Dolph. He previously recovered from multiple shot wounds after a fight outside a hotel in Los Angeles in September 2017. In February eight months prior, he came out unscathed after his SUV was shot at more than 100 times in Charlotte, North Carolina, attributing his survival to having bulletproof panels on the car, and this event became the inspiration for his song “100 Shots” 

Unfortunately, this last senseless shooting took his life. It sent shockwaves through the city of Memphis, and many “pointed to the killing as a symbol of the dangers of gun violence in Memphis, where more than 300 homicides were reported last year.”

Like fellow slain rapper Nipsey Hussle, Young Dolph was greatly venerated and well-regarded for his charitable works in his hometown of Memphis. “He organized Thanksgiving food giveaways, donated thousands of dollars to high schools, and paid rent and covered funeral costs for people in the Castalia Heights neighborhood where he was raised.”

At the time of his death, the 36-year-old was in town to visit a cancer center and hand out Thanksgiving turkeys. 


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