Two men wanted for killing rapper Young Dolph in custody

The pair suspected of fatally shooting the Memphis emcee — and targeting his brother — are now behind bars, officials say.

Loading the player...

The two men wanted in connection with the murder of rapper Adolph “Young Dolph” Thornton Jr. are now in police custody, according to law enforcement officials. 

Justin Johnson, the 23-year-old man publicly named last week as a suspect, was arrested Tuesday in Indiana on a first-degree murder warrant. The second suspect, Cornelius Smith, who authorities already had behind bars, was indicted Tuesday for first-degree murder and other charges stemming from Thornton’s Nov. 17 killing.

Young Dolph attends the BET Hip-Hop Awards 2019 at Cobb Energy Center in Atlanta. Two suspects for the Memphis rapper’s murder are now in police custody. (Photo: Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)

Smith, 32, who had been arrested Dec. 9 in Southaven, Mississippi, on an auto-theft warrant involving the white Mercedes-Benz reportedly used in Young Dolph’s murder — was booked into the Shelby County, Tennessee, jail on Tuesday, too.

“After a coordinated investigation by the U.S. Marshals Two Rivers Violent Fugitive Task Force and the Great Lakes Regional Fugitive Task Force, Justin Johnson was captured today around 3:00 p.m. (C.S.T.) in Indiana,” according to a U.S. Marshals release, per USA Today

Justin Johnson (left), and Cornelius Smith (right), wanted for fatally shooting Memphis emcee Young Dolph — and targeting his brother — are now in police custody. (Photos: U.S. Marshals Service via AP and Screenshot/WMC Action News 5)

Authorities did not disclose the Indiana city in which Johnson was located on Tuesday. Marshals are also holding him on an outstanding warrant for violation of federal supervised release out of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee. Smith has been charged with first-degree murder, convicted felon in possession of a firearm, employment of a firearm in the commission of a dangerous felony and theft of property over $10,000.

According to reports, Young Dolph’s brother was also targeted in the shooting, which occurred inside a local cookie shop in Memphis, resulting in attempted murder charges for Smith. Additional charges may be filed against Johnson as well.

Johnson — also a Memphis rapper, who goes by the name Straight Drop or Straight Dropp — took to Instagram Saturday, where he claimed he’d turn himself in, despite being innocent, writing: “Be Back Sooner Than You Can Blink.”

Johnson reportedly has a history of violence, including a 2017 shooting in which a person was hit in the leg and another grazed. He was sentenced to five years in prison but was released on probation after six months. Several months later, he was arrested on federal drugs and weapons charges. After he was convicted on these charges, his state and federal sentences ran concurrently and he was released in May of 2021.

The slaying of Young Dolph, 36, left the city of Memphis in mourning for the rapper, who made his solo debut in 2016 with his album King of Memphis. He continued to release solo material under his own record label, Paper Route Empire, and was noted for his acts of charity and kindness in his city, where he funded various high-school drives, donated food during holiday drives and paid thousands in rent for those who needed it, as well as people’s final expenses.

Dolph achieved his highest-charting success with his seventh album, the 2020 LP Rich Slave, peaking at No. 4 on the Billboard 200.

Have you subscribed to the Grio podcasts “Dear Culture” or “Acting Up?” Download our newest episodes now!
TheGrio is now on Apple TV, Amazon Fire and Roku. Download theGrio today!

Loading the player...