Seven years after taking part in a schoolyard ambush in Jonesboro, Ark., where four students and a teacher were killed, Mitchell Johnson will walk out of a federal detention center Thursday, reports the Associated Press. His impending release has Jonesboro on edge, and many question the fairness of releasing Johnson on his 21st birthday because of a now-closed loophole in the law. “How could anyone think they would be rehabilitated?” asked Dale Haas, the former sheriff.
On March 24, 1998, Johnson, then 13, and Andrew Golden, then 11, stole rifles from Golden’s grandfather. Dressed in camouflage, they waited in the woods behind the school until the lunch hour, when Golden ran into a hallway to trigger a fire alarm. As classmates and teachers filed out of the buildings, Johnson and Golden opened fire. Four students and a teacher were killed, and 10 others were injured. The shootings came amid a number of school assaults. Thirteen died, along with two shooters, at Columbine, Colo., a year after Jonesboro. Luke Woodham killed two students in Pearl, Miss., in October 1997 after killing his mother, and Kip Kinkel killed two teenagers and wounded more than 20 at Springfield, Ore., after killing his parents in May 1998. Woodham is in prison for life. Kinkel is serving nearly 112 years.