The man accused of killing Memphis rap legend Young Dolph received a 5-year sentence for shooting 3 people in 2017.
Dolph, real name Adolph Thornton (below right), was gunned down by two men inside a Memphis cookie shop on Nov. 17.
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Marshals Service identified 23-year-old Justin Johnson (pictured with Dolph) as one of the killers on Wednesday. A $15,000 reward is being offered for his capture.
RELATED: Police Identify Suspect in Young Dolph Murder Case
Johnson was out on the streets because the liberal judge who sentenced him in 2017 felt sorry for him.
Shelby County Judge Christopher Craft said he remembered the then-teenager when a reporter reached out to him for comment.
“The first time he used a gun, we gave him some slack because of him immediately cooperating and doing everything,” said Judge Craft.
The first time Johnson used a gun, he attempted to murder three people after a fight at a bowling alley.
According to court records, Johnson immediately pleaded guilty to the shooting spree at the Billy Hardwick Bowling Alley, ABC 24 reported.
“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.
Though there were signs that Johnson was a hardened criminal, Judge Craft was “impressed” with the lad.
“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 spared the youthful offender by not giving him the maximum 6 years for attempting to kill 3 people. Judge Craft followed Johnson’s progress in jail. He observed that the teenager had “an exemplary record and no write-ups” behind bars.
He said Johnson “went above and beyond what he was expected to do” and he released Johnson after serving just six months of his 5-year sentence.
A few months later, Johnson was arrested again on drugs and gun possession charges, which meant he violated his probation and faced a federal charge.
“We were very disappointed with that because he was such an impressive young man,” said Craft.
“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.”
Johnson was released from prison in less than 5 years.
Critics are outraged over Johnson’s lenient sentence and the liberal judge who put a lawless criminal back on the streets.
“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. “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.”
Memphis officials honored Dolph’s legacy by renaming a street after him in Castalia Heights last month.