Boys who shot dead five were both released at 21 with clean records, with one applying for a concealed carry permit just a year later.
Submitted by: Veronica Coffin
- Mitchell Johnson and Andrew Golden were 13 and 11 during 1998 shooting
- They fatally shot five at Westside Middle School in Arkansas, injured 10
- State law tried them as juveniles and they were released on 21st birthdays
- Johnson possessed a gun after his release and was arrested twice more
- Golden applied for concealed carry permit under new name but was denied
- They are the only two living mass school shooters who are freed
Mitchell Johnson and Andrew Golden were just 13 and 11 when they pulled a fire alarm at their Arkansas middle school and fatally shot five people as they exited the building in 1998.
Tried as minors and released on their 21st birthdays with clean records, Johnson and Golden are the only two living mass school shooters who are walking free in this country.
With state laws sealing their records and the memory of their names shrouded by the Columbine shootings just one year later, Johnson was arrested with a gun in 2007 while Golden applied for a concealed carry permit under a new name, ABC reports.
Mitchell Johnson ( in 2008) and Andrew Golden (in 2000) pulled a fire alarm at Westside Middle School in Arkansas and opened fire as people left the building. The 1998 mass shooting killed 5 people
On March 24, 1998, Johnson and Golden killed four students and one teacher when they opened fire at Westside Middle School in Craighead County. Ten others were injured.
The boys reportedly took Golden’s grandfather’s rifles, and the two boys planned to run away after the attack.
Debbie Spencer, a science teacher who taught both boys, told ABC: ‘They were hiding in the bushes and shooting at us. It was an ambush. It was chaos.’
She also revealed that she barely escaped and later found a hole in her purse while she was giving the police a statement.
Due to state laws at the time prohibiting minors from being charged as adults, they received the maximum sentence, which saw them released on their 21st birthdays.
After seven years in prison, Johnson was released in 2005. Golden was released after nine years in 2007.
Johnson was 13, and Golden was 11 at the time of the attack. They were tried as minors and released from prison on their 21st birthdays
Debbie Spencer, a science teacher who taught both boys, told ABC: ‘They were hiding in the bushes and shooting at us. It was an ambush. It was chaos.’ Pictured: an injured student after the attack
Johnson was arrested two more times after he was freed. He has been on probation since July 2015. Pictured, a student after the shooting in 1998
In 2007, Johnson was stopped in Arkansas and charged with possessing a firearm in the presence of a controlled substance.
Lawyer Jack Schisler, who represented Johnson in that case, told ABC he thought his client was being unfairly punished for being released at the age of 21.
Johnson was released on bond, and arrested again in 2008 after he took a debit card left by a customer at the gas station he was working.
He used the card, and was found in possession of marijuana when he was arrested.
Johnson was sentenced for 12 years. While he was eligible for parole in 2011, he served another four years for the 2007 conviction.
According to court records, he was released on probation in July 2015 and placed in a drug rehabilitation program.
Golden also showed a penchant for guns after his release.
Arkansas State Police spokeman Bill Sadler told the Arkansas Times in 2008 that Golden, who was operating under the name Drew Douglas Grant, applied for a concealed handgun permit.
He was denied after police found he failed to properly disclose his time at a youth services center and federal prison in a section that asks applicants to list their previous residences.
Golden applied for a concealed handgun permit in 2008 under a new name. The application, which was submitted just one year after his release, was denied. Pictured, the school and its students in the aftermath
Through this process, his legally changed name was revealed. It was previously protected under a gag order that prohibited attorneys from revealing details of his new life.
Family members of the victims argued that if sex offenders in Arkansas are required to disclose their personal information, including their email accounts, usernames, and physical characteristics, then Johnson and Golden should not be protected by the law.
Mitch Wright, who lost his wife in the shooting, said he believed it was in the public’s interest to reveal Golden’s new name.
Spencer, the science teacher who narrowly escaped, told ABC: ‘They shouldn’t have any rights. They shouldn’t have the right to be out, to get a family, to have a gun and have a normal life like they didn’t ever do anything wrong.’
Brandi Varner, 31, said it was a ‘slap in the face’ knowing that the people who killed her 11-year-old sister Brittney, have walked free.