Police say more arrests are ‘very possible’ in the shooting death of rapper Young Dolph

Rapper Young Dolph.
Rapper Young Dolph. Prince Williams/Wireimage
  • More arrests are “very possible” in connection with the Memphis shooting death of rapper Young Dolph, police said.
  • “There could be other individuals that are implicated in this particular homicide,” Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn “CJ” Davis said. 
  • Two men have already been arrested for the November 17, 2021, killing of the 36-year-old rapper. 

More arrests are “very possible” in connection to the Memphis, Tennessee shooting death of rapper Young Dolph, the city’s police chief said Wednesday after two men were taken into custody for the crime that stunned the victim’s hometown.

“Once we continue to conduct this investigation, there’s no telling where it could potentially lead,” Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn “CJ” Davis said during a press conference. “There could be other individuals that are implicated in this particular homicide.”

Investigators still did not have a motive for the Young Dolph’s killing, Davis said. 

The 36-year-old rapper, whose real name is Adolph Robert Thornton, Jr., was fatally shot on November 17, 2021, inside of Makeda’s Butter Cookies in Memphis, authorities said. 

He was pronounced dead at the scene. 

Federal and local authorities announced Tuesday that two suspects — Justin Johnson, 23, and 32-year-old Cornelius Smith — had been arrested in connection to the killing of Young Dolph. 

Johnson was apprehended by US Marshals at a truck stop in Brazil, Indiana on Tuesday after authorities received a tip that he was spotted driving on a local highway, officials said. 

The Memphis Police Department previously issued a first-degree murder warrant for Johnson, and last week, several law enforcement agencies announced a combined reward of up to $15,000 for information leading to Johnson’s arrest. 

Authorities received more than 500 tips that led them to multiple cities including Indianapolis, Dallas, Houston, and Hampton, Virginia after the reward announcement was made, US Marshal Tyreece Miller said Wednesday. 

“Justin Johnson has been very active since he’s been on the run — and even more so after the reward announcement,” Miller said. “He never stayed in one place for very long.”

Johnson was taken into custody without incident on Tuesday and a passenger in his vehicle — whom authorities identified as 28-year-old Shondale Barnett — is now facing a facing a charge of accessory after the fact to first-degree murder, said Miller. 

“He is a person who we believe was providing assistance to Justin since we’ve been looking for him,” Miller said of Barnett. 

Meanwhile, Smith was indicted by a grand jury in Tennessee on Tuesday on charges that included first-degree murder and theft of property in connection to Young Dolph’s killing, officials said. 

Smith was also indicted on an additional count for the attempted murder of Young Dolph’s brother, who authorities say was with the rapper at the bakery at the time of the shooting. 

According to Shelby County District Attorney General Amy Weirich, Smith was arrested on December 9 in Southaven, Tennessee on an auto-theft warrant involving the white Mercedes-Benz getaway car that was used in the killing of Young Dolph. 

It was not immediately clear whether Johnson, Smith, or Barnett had obtained attorneys.