$150M awarded in 1998 Arkansas school shooting lawsuit
JONESBORO, Ark. — A judge overseeing a civil lawsuit in northeast Arkansas on Monday awarded $150 million to the families of five people who were fatally shot outside an Arkansas school in 1998.
Andrew Golden and Mitchell Johnson set off a fire alarm at Westside Middle School in Jonesboro and shot at people as they evacuated the school.
Twelve-year-olds Paige Herring and Stephanie Johnson and 11-year-olds Brittney Varner and Natalie Brooks were killed, along with teacher Shannon Wright.
Golden and Johnson were 11 and 13 when the shooting happened, and were expected to stay imprisoned until the age of 21 according to Arkansas law at the time. Johnson was released in 2005, and Golden was released in 2007.
The families’ attorney, Bobby McDaniel, said they probably won’t ever see the money, but hopes the Monday ruling will prevent Golden, also known as Drew Grant, and Johnson from profiting from the shooting.
“If either of them tries to sell their story for a book or a movie deal, or wins the lottery, this judgment means they can’t get rich without paying these families first,” McDaniel said.
Each of the families was awarded $20 million in damages against Johnson, and $10 million in damages against Golden.
Neither Golden nor Johnson was present for the court hearing, but Golden’s attorneys had signed a consent judgment form on their client’s behalf to avoid a trial.
In a news release, McDaniel said Johnson spent time in federal prison after completing his sentence for the shootings, and was located in Texas this year.
Golden has been living in Missouri under the assumed name of Drew Grant, according to McDaniel.
The attorney said another reason for filing the lawsuit was so a judge could release sealed depositions taken under oath by attorneys in the case.
“The parents and spouses wanted to know what happened,” McDaniel said.
McDaniel said the depositions could maybe reveal if there were any warning signs before the shooting.