As we reported earlier today, Jonesboro attorney Bobby McDaniel won a cumulative, and only symbolic, $150 million in damages yesterday in a civil suit on behalf of families of five people killed in the Westside Middle School shootings —by Mitchell Johnson, then 13, and Andrew Golden, then 11 — in 1998.
As McDaniel had hoped, Judge John Fogleman subsequently opened depositions McDaniel had taken to public view. One video deposition of Johnson,
now in federal prison on unrelated charges, had been reported on previously by the Times‘ David Koon. (Correction: Johnson was released from federal prison last year on probation. His precise whereabouts aren’t known.) No testimony from Golden had been available previously. He now goes by the name of Drew Grant and reportedly lives somewhere in Missouri. The federal bureau of
Hopefully, somebody can learn something from these that might help prevent another shooting. These are the only surviving mass school shooters.
When I commented on
You are correct that it has been a 19-year long and hard journey, especially knowing there would be no fee, but at least I would get to spend a lot of my money on depositions, investigators chasing them down, etc., but worth it all to get this done.
David Koon soon will be adding a summary of the highlights of the newly revealed depositions, questioning under oath. For his part, Golden testifies of being led into the crime by Johnson and said he remembers little of events.
We have also posted on your Youtube page four video depositions — two each from each defendant in 2000 and then in either 2007 or 2008.
KOON’S UPDATE: In the later of two depositions of Golden, taken in Dec. 2008, Golden — by then having legally changed his name to Drew Douglas Grant — spoke of his whereabouts after his release from prison before claiming that he was forced to participate in the shooting by Mitchell Johnson, telling attorney McDaniel that Johnson approached him at his bus stop the morning of the shooting and threatened him with a knife, saying he would kill Golden and his family if he didn’t participate.
Golden claimed that before the shooting, Johnson, who claimed to be a member of the Treetop Piru gang, told him that he was “angry at some people, related to the gang stuff” and said he was going to “get some people back.”
Golden said Johnson, who was driving a stolen van, drove him to the home of Golden’s parents, then told him to let him into the house “or I’m going to kill you and your whole family.” Inside, Golden claimed that he and Johnson briefly struggled over his mother’s revolver before Johnson took it and threatened him further with the gun, knocking him down at one point with the
After leaving the house, Golden claimed that Johnson forced him into the van again and they proceeded to a gas station where Johnson attempted to buy fuel. Asked by McDaniel why he didn’t jump out and flee while Johnson was pumping gas if he was being held against his will, Golden said he was scared.
From there, the pair went to Golden’s grandfather’s house, where Golden said Johnson broke in through a back door and then raided a large rack of guns, taking pistols, rifles,
Once at the school, Golden claimed, Johnson again threatened him, telling Golden to go in and pull the fire alarm, with Golden claiming Johnson told him if he didn’t come back out, he’d come in and kill him. Golden claims he did as he was told, then came back and waited with Johnson behind a fence.
Golden, who was armed with a World War II era M1 Carbine during the shooting, said that he was the first one to fire, but only because he wanted to scare people back inside. Golden told McDaniel he shot at the wall of a gym, the dirt and the sky, but said he “never shot at anybody” and was “not directly trying to pick someone out of the crowd.
As noted by McDaniel, ballistics later matched the bullet that killed Natalie Brooks to Golden’s rifle. Asked how he managed to hit Brooks in the head if he wasn’t aiming at her, even though he was — even at 11 — a skilled marksman who had competed in shooting competitions, Golden said he didn’t know.
Golden told McDaniel he doesn’t remember seeing the bodies fall as they were hit, adding that a psychiatrist had previously told him there was a
As seen in a story we published in December 2008, Golden’s deposition about the shooting is in direct conflict with testimony given by Mitchell Johnson in a taped deposition from 2007, also taken by Bobby McDaniel, with Johnson telling McDaniel then that Golden participated willingly.
McDaniel also provided printed transcripts of two depositions with Johnson, including one in 2000 not previously revealed.