Jonesboro Prepared for Release of Middle School Shooter

AUGUST 6, 2005 - Posted at 9:55 a.m. CDT

JONESBORO, AR - Seven years after taking part in an Arkansas schoolyard ambush that killed four students and a teacher, Mitchell Johnson will walk out of a federal detention center.

Johnson and Drew Golden, 13 and 11 at the time of the Westside Middle School shootings in Jonesboro, went through the juvenile court system, which could only keep them in custody until they turned 18.  After that, federal prosecutors used weapon laws to keep the boys locked up until age 21.

Johnson will be the first to turn 21.  His birthday is Thursday, and his impending release has sparked apprehension in the community where the shootings occured.  Many people hope he chooses to live somewhere else, and the Craighead County Sheriff thinks there could be trouble if he does return to the Jonesboro area.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons will not confirm that Johnson is in its custody, but Sheriff Jack McCann says Johnson is being held near Jonesboro.  It is widely speculated that Johnson is being held in a federal facility in the Memphis area. McCann says he expects some problems if Johnson returns to Craighead County, but he doesn't know to what extent.  He says Johnson has served his sentence whether anyone agrees with it or not.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)