Andrew Golden Is Dead

Drew Grant in 2008

Last night, news broke about an accident that occurred on a highway in Independence County, Arkansas.  One car drifted into oncoming traffic and collided with another car.  Both drivers were killed.  The driver of the second car was a 33  year-old resident of Missouri named Drew Douglas Grant.

It’s the type of thing that happens nearly every day.  What made this accident national news was that before Drew Grant was known as Drew Grant, he was known as Andrew Golden.  In 1998, Golden and his friend Mitchell Johnson were responsible for what was, at the time, the 2nd most deadly school shooting in U.S. history.  After Golden pulled a fire alarm at Westside Middle School in Jonesboro, Arkansas, he and Johnson ambushed and shot 15 people.  4 students and one teacher died.

At the time, Mitchell Johnson was 13.  Andrew Golden was 11.

Andrew Golden in 1998

Because of their age, Johnson and Golden were tried as juveniles.  Convicted of five counts of murder, Johnson and Golden were imprisoned until they each reached their 21st birthdays, at which point they were released and their criminal record was officially wiped clean.  Johnson and Golden became the only two living mass murderers who were not incarcerated.

Can someone who did something terrible as a child be reformed and go on to be a productive adult?  That is a question that haunts the juvenile justice system.  After his initial release, Johnson continued to get into trouble with the law and spent even more time in prison on drug and theft charges.  (Johnson is currently free and living, under probation, somewhere in Texas.)  Andrew Golden, on the other hand, changed his name and, with the exception of one time when he attempted to get a concealed weapon permit under his new name and failed to disclose that he had spent time in prison, kept a low profile.

If you go on YouTube, you can find a 2008 disposition that Golden gave in a civil case.  For two and a half hours, Golden was asked about the shooting and his life afterwards and most of his answers consisted of replying, “Not that I remember.”  When asked to describe the day of the shooting, Golden claimed that Johnson approached him before school and, while holding a pocket knife, threatened to kill Golden and his father unless Golden helped with the shooting.  When asked why he didn’t run away or make any attempt to warn anyone when Johnson supposedly ordered him to enter the school and pull the fire alarm, Golden can only shrug and say that he doesn’t remember.  Golden, who was considered to be an excellent marksman even at the age of 11, also claimed that he only started shooting to try to warn everyone the teachers and students about what Mitchell was planning.  Despite having fired nearly every fatal shot, Golden insisted throughout the disposition that he only fired his gun in the air and at a wall.  Watching the disposition, it is evident that Golden was not ready or willing to take responsibility for his actions in 2008.  Had that changed by 2019?  Was Golden even capable of making that type of change?  Who can say?

Andrew Golden is dead, the victim of an accident that appears to have been as random as his actions in 1998 were deliberate.  If his death brings some sort of peace to those who he hurt, good.