Jonesboro school shooter who killed 5 in 1998 massacre dies in car crash, police say

Police: Jonesboro School Shooter Who Killed 5 in 1998 Massacre Dies in Car Crash

INDEPENDENCE COUNTY, Ark. — One of the shooters in the 1998 Jonesboro school mass shooting that killed four students and a teacher -- and was the second deadliest school shooting pre-Columbine -- was killed in a head-on collision Saturday in Arkansas.

Andrew Golden, who as an adult legally changed his name to Drew Grant, was one of two people killed in the crash, according to KAIT in Jonesboro. Arkansas State Police officials confirmed that Grant, 33, and Golden are "one and the same," according to the station.

Grant, who lived in Jackson, Missouri, was driving a 2017 Honda CRV near Cave City around 9 p.m. when his vehicle was hit head-on by a southbound 2013 Chevy Tahoe that crossed the center line, a turn lane and both northbound lanes, troopers told KAIT. The driver of the Tahoe, Daniel Petty, 59, of Essex, Missouri, was also killed in the crash.

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Three passengers were injured in the crash, including Grant's wife, Stephanie Grant, 29, and their 2-year-old child, NBC News reported. Kathy Tanner, 59, was identified as the passenger in Petty's vehicle.

Golden was 11 years old on March 25, 1998, when he and a classmate, 13-year-old Mitchell Johnson, pulled a fire alarm after lunch and ran to a nearby wooded area outside Westside Middle School near Jonesboro. Stashed in the woods were nine weapons and thousands of rounds of ammunition that NPR reported last year, on the 20th anniversary of the massacre, were stolen from the homes of the boys' parents and grandparents.

As students and teachers filed outside for what they thought was a routine drill, the boys opened fire with deer rifles.

Four students were killed, according to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette: Natalie Brooks and Britthney Varner, both 11, and Paige Herring and Stephanie Johnson, who were 12.

Teacher Shannon Wright, 32, was fatally shot as she shielded a sixth grader from the gunfire, the Democrat-Gazette reported. Another 10 students and teachers were injured in the gunfire.

Wright's widower, Mitch Wright, who was left to raise the couple's then-2-year-old son, Zane, released a statement to KAIT on behalf of himself and his now-grown son.

"The news of Andrew Golden's death today fills our family with mixed emotions, as I'm sure it does with the other families and students of the Westside shooting," Wright said. "Mostly sadness. Sadness for his wife and son, sadness that that they, too, will feel the loss that we have felt. "To his family, we are so sorry for your loss. We are praying that his wife and child will make a full recovery."

The news of this fills my heart with so many mixed emotions. But mostly sadness. Sadness for his wife and daughter....

Posted by Zane Wright on Sunday, July 28, 2019

Zane Wright echoed his father's sentiments on Facebook, where Mitch Wright wrote on Sunday that he was in Orlando, where he, his wife and their son went on their final vacation together 21 years ago, when he learned Golden was dead.

"It brings back everything in split second but then immediately, it hit me that he has a young child and a wife," Mitch Wright wrote.

He said it took him many years to forgive Golden. He wrote about the emotions he felt toward the young man and his accomplice as he faced life alone with his crying toddler son.

"Now I just pray his young child and wife are OK and that God heals their bodies," Mitch Wright wrote. "This family is going to need all of us to pray for them. It's way past time to let our hurt go and pray for peace, calm, strength and healing for this family."

How to put in words the roller coaster of emotions that’s been going through me today once the news broke about this....

Posted by Mitch Wright on Sunday, July 28, 2019

Golden and Johnson, who according to ABC News are the only two American mass school shooters ever released from prison, were convicted of murder as juveniles for their crime, which was the second deadliest mass school shooting until the following year.

On April 20, 1999, two students at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, gunned down 12 students and a teacher. The gunmen, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, then committed suicide.

The Westside Middle School killers were released when they turned 21, Johnson in 2005 and Golden in 2007.

Because they’d been convicted as juveniles, their criminal records were sealed. Johnson was later arrested on drug and weapons charges, however, and he served time in state and federal prison.

Bureau of Prisons records show he is no longer in custody.

Golden's whereabouts and name change were unknown until 2008, when, as Grant, he applied for a concealed carry handgun permit in Arkansas. KAIT reported that Grant's application was denied when his fingerprints matched those taken at the time of Golden's arrest in 1998.

The shooting victims' families were awarded $150 million in damages in a civil suit in 2017, NBC News reported. As part of the settlement, both shooters were prohibited from profiting in any way from their crime.