Justin Johnson, 23, is alleged to have shot Young Dolph while the rapper, born Adolph Robert Thornton, Jr., was visiting Makeda’s Cookies near Memphis International Airport. Johnson is now the subject of a first-degree murder warrant issued by the Memphis Police Department, officials said.
Johnson also has an outstanding warrant for violation of federal supervised release in a weapons case and “has ties to organized criminal gangs,” according to a joint press release from the Memphis Police, the U.S. Marshals Service, and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.
Young Dolph’s aunt, Rita Myers, told Rolling Stone late Wednesday that the family is still reeling from her nephew’s senseless slaying and doesn’t know anything more about the suspect than what authorities publicly revealed.
“There’s not any closure for us with this news, because [Johnson] is not in custody, and we still don’t have all the facts,” Myers said. “We still feel the same. This news just made me feel worse. I thought it would make me feel better, but it didn’t. All I know is, anyone who could walk up and take the life of another person for no reason is someone with hate in their heart, a person who has no regard for life, a person who cares about nothing.”
“Our family has suffered a tremendous loss, because he was the glue that held our family together,” Myers said of her nephew. “I’m still crying, day and night. We were very close. And it’s not just me, it’s the whole family. I couldn’t even say ‘Merry Christmas,’ or celebrate my birthday, or say ‘Happy New Year’ to anyone, because I don’t feel that. It’s like we lost a part of ourselves, and I can’t see an end to the suffering and hurt.”
He should be considered armed & dangerous.
Seen him? Call 901-378-3132 or 1-800-TBI-FIND pic.twitter.com/38OkN4zWko
— Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (@TBInvestigation) January 5, 2022
Authorities described Johnson as being five feet eight inches tall, weighing 190 pounds, and having the name “Jaiya” tattooed on his right arm. The law enforcement agencies offered a combined award of $15,000 Wednesday for information leading to Johnson’s arrest.
“The tragic shooting death of rap artist Young Dolph serves as another reminder of the pain that violent crime brings with it,” Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland previously said in a statement.
Young Dolph was born in Chicago in 1985 but grew up in Memphis, his Southern rearing informing his indelible flow and a vibe that fans and peers alike embraced. He released a series of mixtapes that impressed established rap stars including Gucci Mane and Young Thug. Following his breakthrough 2015 appearance on O.T. Genesis’ hit “Cut It,” Young Dolph dropped his debut album, King of Memphis. Several successful projects followed, including 2018’s Role Model, Dum and Dummer and 2020’s Rich Slave.
His rise was also met with some controversy, which included having had more than 100 shots fired at his bulletproof SUV in Charlotte, North Carolina, in February 2017. While the rapper was unharmed — and he followed up the incident with the single “100 Shots” a few months later — he was hospitalized seven months later after being shot in Los Angeles.
In December, less than month after he was murdered, family, friends, and peers paid tribute to Young Dolph’s life and music, along with a call to end violence in the streets of Memphis. Artists such as T.I., Gucci Mane, Gangsta Boo, C-Murder, 8Ball & MJG, Berner, Paul Wall, 2 Chainz, and Juicy J shared video messages.
Additional reporting by Althea Legaspi