For the first time since he helped gun down four students and a teacher nine years ago, Jonesboro school shooter Mitchell Johnson talks in detail under oath about the killings.
Before Columbine, before Paducah, before Virginia Tech, it was at Westside Middle School in Jonesboro where 13-year-old Mitchell Johnson and 11-year-old Andrew Golden opened fire on their classmates and teachers.
They shot four girls and sixth grade teacher Shannon Wright to death and injured several others. A jury convicted Johnson and Golden and sent them to juvenile facilities until their 21st birthdays.
Johnson got out last August and in April, a lawyer for the victims' families subpoenaed him for a videotaped deposition regarding the shootings. It's part of an ongoing wrongful death lawsuit filed against both shooters and their parents.
Today’s THV obtained a copy of the transcript and interview.
After serving eight years for gunning down five people at Westside Middle School, Mitchell Johnson is now a free man.
Attorney Bobby McDaniel asks, "Where was your last place of employment?"
“Wal-Mart here in Fayetteville," replies Johnson.
In the video taped deposition, McDaniel questions Johnson for more than two hours.
"Mitchell Johnson to me is a sociopath; he's a mass murderer. He portrays himself as a remorseful victim, none of which I believe," says McDaniel.
During the sworn testimony, Johnson admits he was troubled, but says he never meant to hurt anyone despite warning his sister to stay at home on the day of the shootings and despite carrying with him dozens of guns and knives he and Golden had stolen.
McDaniel asks, "You were aiming through a telescopic sight? So you could see who or what you were shooting?”
“Yes sir,” Johnson replies.
McDaniel asks, “Could you see their faces? You could, couldn't you?
“If I aimed at them, yes I could,” says Johnson.
McDaniel says, “Okay. And why did you aim at Ms. Wright?”
“I didn't,” says Johnson.
“Who did?” asks McDaniel.
Johnson replies, “I mean, it wasn't intentional that Ms. Wright got hit."
Ms. Wright was Johnson’s sixth grade teacher. She was the mother to a two-year-old and the wife of Mitchell Wright who just recently read the deposition himself.
"It makes you sick. You would want to think that someone now that's 22 years old would want to take responsibility for his actions; be a man,” says Wright.
Wright's son is now 12 years old.
“He's in 6th grade and the second day of school he said, 'Dad, I’ve got a teacher; she's an English teacher. She's got dark hair; she's very funny and I wonder if my mom was like that,'" says Wright.
Wright’s son wanted Johnson to specifically be asked why he killed his mother.
"Tell him why you shot his mama," says McDaniel.
“It wasn't intentional. I didn't intend to harm anybody that day and for the record and for her son, I would definitely apologize. I am apologizing. I am sorry that you didn't get a chance to know who your mother was and from what I knew of her she was a very good woman; one of the best teachers I ever had," says Johnson.
Johnson says now he wants to get married, become a minister and get on with his life.
"It happened and I’m really sorry it happened and I’m just trying again to the best of my ability to get established in life. Society is cruel, you know, especially towards a murderer, you know. It's just something that I live with every day," says Johnson.
It’s something Mitch Wright and four other families live with everyday, too.
"He comes across to me being very cocky, very hateful. I believe he made a statement in there about society being mean. I mean that's like a Cho statement and that's a scary statement," says Wright.
McDaniel says, “This is your first window into the minds of mass murders. They were children, but I hope people don't forget they are mass murderers. Yeah, they were children, but these people are just as dead and families are just as distraught and they can't get away with it and they weren't punished enough."
Because he was juvenile, Johnson was released from jail with a clean record, but was recently arrested on drug and weapons charges. The lawsuit against Johnson is also an attempt to keep him and Golden from ever profiting off the murders through a TV or book deal. Johnson agreed to that stipulation in the deposition.
You can read the complete interview transcript. Just click on the link.
As for Andrew Golden, the state won't reveal which juvenile facility holds him. He will be released May 25th on his 21st birthday. And just like Johnson had upon his release, Golden will have a clean slate - his juvenile records sealed.