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Two Suspects In The Killing Of Rapper Young Dolph At A Cookie Store Have Been Arrested

The 36-year-old had built a reputation as one of the most prolific rappers in the industry, at one point making a music video from his hospital room after being shot in Los Angeles in 2017.

Last updated on January 12, 2022, at 3:11 p.m. ET

Posted on January 11, 2022, at 9:05 p.m. ET

Mpi04 / mpi04/MediaPunch/MediaPunch/IPx

Young Dolph poses for a portrait during the Empire Records DJ party held at Skydeck on Oct. 5, 2018, in Miami Beach.

Two men have been arrested in connection to the fatal shooting of rapper Young Dolph in Tennessee last year, but law enforcement officials on Wednesday said they have yet to determine a motive in the deadly shooting.

Investigators are still sorting through a slew of tips, information, rumors, and innuendo to pin down why the two suspects — one of them a rapper — allegedly carried out the killing.

"We're just not ready to put this out yet," Memphis Police Chief C.J. Davis said at a news conference Wednesday.

Young Dolph, whose given name is Adolph Robert Thornton Jr., was shot at Makeda's Homemade Butter Cookies in Memphis in November. The 36-year-old made his debut in 2008 with "Paper Route Campaign" and built a reputation as one of the most prolific rappers in the industry, at one point making a music video from his hospital room after being shot in Los Angeles in 2017. His collaborators included Megan Thee Stallion and Gucci Mane, and he often worked with his fellow Memphis rapper and protégé Key Glock.

US Marshals Service via AP

Justin Johnson.

There were no suspects immediately after the shooting but, on Jan. 5, the US Marshals Service and Memphis Police announced a $15,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of Justin Johnson, a Memphis native and rapper who goes by the name of Straight Drop.

Johnson had stated on social media on Monday that he planned to turn himself in, according to a statement from the Shelby County District Attorney's Office. But ultimately, he didn't.

Instead, Johnson was taken into custody in Indiana Tuesday, the US Marshals officials said in a statement. Johnson was found after officials received more than 500 tips, largely prompted by the reward, officials said.

Johnson also had an outstanding warrant for violating the terms of his supervised federal release, according to the statement.

A third man, 27-year-old Shondele Barnett, was also taken into custody along with Johnson and facing charges of being an accessory after the fact. Barnett is suspected of aiding Johnson as the two traveled through Indiana during the manhunt.

On Tuesday, the Shelby County district attorney also announced that a grand jury had charged a second man, 32-year-old Cornelius Smith, with first-degree murder and a second count of attempted first-degree murder in connection to the deadly shooting on Nov. 17.

Smith was arrested on Dec. 9 on an auto theft warrant for a white Mercedes-Benz, the vehicle authorities believe was used in the killing of Dolph.

The car was stolen on Nov. 10 and found on Nov. 20, three days after the deadly shooting.

Smith is in custody in Shelby County Jail.

Johnson has not yet been charged in the killing, but Davis said an indictment was forthcoming.

Shelby County District Attorney Amy Weirich said Johnson had a lengthy criminal record that included an aggravated rape and aggravated robbery conviction when he was 17. In 2017, Johnson was convicted and served five years after shooting three people in a bowling alley.

He was released nine months into his sentence, Weirich said, and in 2018, was indicted on a federal gun charge.

He had been released from federal custody in May 2021.

On Wednesday, officials declined to released more details about the November shooting, but said they had enough information to name Johnson as a person of interest in the shooting. An indictment, Davis said, was forthcoming.

"We had enough probable cause to put out this wanted flyer for Johnson and we have enough information to ensure that he will see his day in court," Davis said.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.