Jonesboro school shooter released Thursday - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Jonesboro school shooter released Thursday

More than seven years after a deadly school shooting here in the Mid-South, one of the convicted gunmen is a free man tonight.

Mitchell Johnson turns 21-years-old Thursday.

He was just 13 when he and a classmate opened fire at Westside Middle School, killing four students and a teacher.

Mitchell Johnson's release coincides with the first day back for Westside Middle School teachers. Action News Five was there today and they did not want to talk.

It's still so fresh on the minds of so many, including Craighead County's top cop, who remembers the shooting like it was yesterday.

"It was horrible," said Craighead County Sheriff Jack McCann.

Thirty-years of police work did not prepare McCann for March 24, 1998.

"It was beyond your normal murder or homicide," he said. "It was just basically a slaughter."

He was chief deputy then, now he's sheriff.

In seven years, his title has changed, but his feelings have not.

"Anyone that kills 5 people, wounds 10, should be in prison the rest of their lives," he said.

Seven years he says, is not enough time served or time to heal.

"There's still a lot of anger, a lot of frustration," he said.

It's because of that anger that Sheriff McCann says he met with Johnson's mother, warning her that her son should not return to Jonesboro.

"To be honest, we couldn't guarantee his safety if he came back here," he said.

Johnson's mother says her son wants to go to college and become a minister.

Sheriff McCann says he'll believe it when he sees it.

"Anything's possible, but I've been doing this a long time and in prison it's very easy to be rehabilitated, but once you get on the street things change sometimes," he said.

So tonight Mitchell Johnson has begun his new life, in a new city, starting over even as the town he leaves behind struggles to move on.

The second Jonesboro school shooter Andrew Golden will be behind bars for another two years. Golden was eleven when he and Mitchell Johnson opened fire at Westside Middle School.

He is set to be released in May of 2007.

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