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Man accused of killing Young Dolph was sentenced to 5 years for a 2017 shooting | So why was he out of prison?

"The first time he used a gun, we gave him some slack because of him immediately cooperating and doing everything," said Judge Christopher Craft.

MEMPHIS, Tenn — This week, Memphis Police issued an arrest warrant for 23-year-old Justin Johnson for the murder of Adolph Thornton Jr., also known as Young Dolph. 

The famous musician was murdered on November 17, 2021. 

Johnson is a rapper who goes by "Straight Drop."

RELATED: $15,000 reward offered for suspect in murder of Memphis rapper Young Dolph

According to Shelby County court records, Johnson pleaded guilty to shooting three people at the Billy Hardwick Bowling Alley in 2017. 

Shelby County Judge Christopher Craft presided over that case. Craft said he remembered the court case well. 

"He had no record. He got in a fight with some people at a bowling alley, and they were all mad at each other. He went out to his car and got a gun and came back in and started shooting. He fired a bunch of shots and a man was hit in the arm and a lady was hit in the leg and another person was grazed," said Craft.

Craft said he was impressed by Johnson because Johnson immediately took responsibility for what happened and pleaded guilty to aggravated assault.

"He immediately admitted to his charges and said 'you don't need to indict me. I'll agree to my charges'," said Craft. "Because he had no record, he was a range one offender, which is 3 to 6 years. Because there were three victims, he pleaded guilty was sentenced to five years in prison."

Craft said in prison Johnson had an exemplary record and no write-ups, that he went above and beyond what he was expected to do and was released on probation. 

"After six months, he asked to get probation because he had done all these classes and arranged to have a job when he got out. Everyone agreed when he came to court since he had no previous record, we put him on probation," said Craft. 

Craft said several months later, Johnson was arrested for having drugs and gun, which meant he was faced with a federal weapons charge. 

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"We were very disappointed with that because he was such an impressive young man," said Craft regarding the new charges. 

Craft revoked Johnson's probation on the aggravated assault case.  

"What we did was we ran our five-year sentence concurrent with his federal, and he went off to federal prison," said Craft. "He went off to prison, and the next I heard of him was when he was on the news as a suspect."

According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, Johnson was released in May 2021 from prison but was still under supervision. 

Critics may wonder why Johnson was initially released on probation.

"A lot of times the toughest thing I have to decide is should I give this man another chance or should he go off to prison," said Craft. "The first time he used a gun, we gave him some slack because of him immediately cooperating and doing everything, and taking programs he didn't have to take and working on things."

Craft went to say, "When we make decisions about whether or not to give another chance, there are going to be a few people we give another chance and they fail. But there are going to be thousands of people we give another chance to and it changes their life, and they never come back."

There is a $15,000 reward for Johnson's arrest.

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