March 24

This Day in History

Crime

Mar 24, 1998:

A school shooting in Jonesboro, Arkansas, kills five

Mitchell Johnson, 13, and Andrew Golden, 11, shoot their classmates and teachers in Jonesboro, Arkansas. Golden, the younger of the two boys, asked to be excused from his class, pulled a fire alarm and then ran to join Johnson in a wooded area 100 yards away from the school's gym. As the students streamed out of the building, Johnson and Golden opened fire and killed four students and a teacher. Ten other children were wounded.

The two boys were caught soon afterward. In their possession were thirteen fully loaded firearms, including three semi-automatic rifles, and 200 rounds of ammunition. Their stolen van had a stockpile of supplies as well as a crossbow and several hunting knives. All of the weapons were taken from the Golden family's personal arsenal. Both of the boys had been raised around guns. They belonged to gun clubs and even participated in practical shooting competitions, which involve firing at simulated moving human targets. Golden reportedly shot several dogs in preparation for the actual shooting.

Because Johnson and Golden were thirteen and eleven, they could not be charged as adults in Arkansas. They were both adjudicated as delinquent and sent to reform institutes. They were to be released when they turned eighteen, as they could legally no longer be housed with minors, but Arkansas bought a facility in 1999 that enabled the state to keep the boys in custody until their twenty-first birthdays. Johnson was freed in 2005; Golden was released in 2007. Neither has any criminal record. Arkansas changed its laws following the Jonesboro tragedy so that child murderers can be imprisoned past twenty-one.

School shootings were highly publicized in the media during the late 1990s who ascribed the supposed epidemic to violent movies, television and video games. However, violence against students in school actually went down significantly in the late 1990s, throwing into the question the entire theory.

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